Baton Rouge, LA (Sports Network) - The eighth-ranked LSU Tigers will play their final home game of the season on Saturday afternoon when they entertain the Ole Miss Rebels.
Ole Miss has had an up-and-down season en route to a 5-5 record and a 2-4 mark in the SEC, but the campaign is a vast improvement from the two wins it put up a year ago. The Rebels have dropped two straight games to Georgia (37-10) and Vanderbilt (27-26), the latter coming in the final minute of the game. They will need to win one of their final two games to become bowl eligible.
"If you would have told me that we'd be at five (wins) with two to play back in the spring, I probably would have taken that as would the rest of Rebel Nation," head coach Hugh Freeze said of his team's season. "(But) I hate losing. When you start to have success, it builds the expectations for all of us and then we want more."
LSU is coming off a stretch of playing five ranked teams in five weeks, and it came out the other side with a 3-2 record, recording wins against South Carolina (23-21), Texas A&M (24-19), and Mississippi State last week (37-17). The team's SEC Championship Game hopes are bleak, but with a strong finish to the season it should earn an at-large bid to a BCS bowl game
The Tigers lead the all-time series with the Rebels, 57-39-4. LSU won 52-3 in Oxford last season, the largest margin of victory by either side in series history.
The Ole Miss offense has been much improved this season under the tutelage of Freeze, putting up 29.5 ppg and 413.2 ypg while coming away with points on 94 percent of its trips to the red zone.
Sophomore quarterback Bo Wallace is fresh off a career-high 403 passing yards against Vanderbilt, bringing his season total to 2,239 yards, sixth-most in the SEC. He has completed better than 65 percent of his passes, rushed for 269 yards, and accounted for 18 total touchdowns.
Ja-Mes Logan is also coming off a career game a week ago by hauling in eight balls for 160 yards. Logan has put together a solid season (32 receptions, 392 yards), but Donte Moncrief (47 receptions, 614 yards, five TDs) has been Wallace's preferred target in most games.
Despite being the team's leading rusher, Jeff Scott (680 yards, six TDs) hasn't had much success in recent weeks, churning out a mere 118 yards on 58 carries since Oct. 27.
The Rebels defense (27.7 ppg) squandered away a win last week by allowing Vanderbilt to drive 79 yards in the final three minutes of the fourth quarter to score the game-winning touchdown
The unit averages three sacks per game, with C.J. Johnson leading the team with 4.5 sacks. Cody Prewitt has tallied 67 tackles with two interception and two fumble recoveries, and he has accounted for four of the team's 21 takeaways.
The LSU offense (30.2 ppg, 391.3 ypg) has performed much better of late thanks to the improved play of its quarterback.
Zach Mettenberger completed 19-of-30 passes for 273 yards and two touchdowns in the win over Mississippi State, giving him four touchdowns and zero interceptions over the past three games.
"I think our passing game is coming," head coach Les Miles said. "I think that Zach is playing extremely well. He has a nice touch on the ball. He knows where he needs to go. He is making quality decisions. I think our receivers are now in a spot where there is a real chemistry developing there."
Jarvis Landry (401 yards, three TDs) has a team-high 40 receptions and enjoyed a nine-catch, 109-yard effort last week. Odell Beckham, Jr. (34 receptions, 548 yards, two TDs) has also developed a solid rapport with Mettenberger.
The Tigers tend to ride the hot hand at running back, and lately that has been Jeremy Hill (477 yards, six TDs), although his consecutive 100-yard rushing games streak snapped at three last week. Kenny Hilliard (449 yards, six TDs) and Michael Ford (375 yards, three TDs) also see work in the backfield.
The defensive effort has been spectacular as usual in Baton Rouge, the Tigers allowing just 15.5 ppg and 262.9 ypg, the latter ranking third in the nation behind only Alabama and Florida State.
LSU has forced 25 turnovers, the most in the conference, and has five players with at least two interceptions. Kevin Minter is having one of the best seasons at linebacker in the country with 90 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss, three sacks, and an interception.