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Playing Nice: Ole Miss

My pal Grayson gets us ready for ahem THE MAGNOLIA BOWL

NCAA Football: Mississippi at Alabama Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports

Well it’s that time of year again. LSU-Ole Miss aka THE MAGNOLIA BOWL the greatest rivalry in sports, in which the Tigers and Rebels play for a trophy that both sides care a great deal about

*puts hand to ear*

Ah! I’m hearing that actually neither side cares about your son’s first woodshop project that is the Magnolia Bowl trophy. Nevertheless, Ole Miss-LSU is still a great rivalry and getting us ready for this year’s edition is my pal Grayson.

1. Ole Miss took it on the chin against Alabama last weekend but they are by no means out of the SEC West race. The West looks pretty wide open, how confident are you that the Rebs can get back on course Saturday?

Confident may not be the right word. I am optimistic. Last weekend’s loss to Alabama forced the Ole Miss staff to look internally and reevaluate its systems from top to bottom. Having a week to watch the tape and learn from a few very costly mistakes will be crucial. And players are often more motivated coming off of a loss

2. Let’s look at the other side of the coin. Say Ole Miss loses Saturday, that means they’ll have lost on consecutive weekends to the West’s top heavy hitters. At what point do we start having a conversation about Lane Kiffin?

The conversation about Lane Kiffin is already taking place. His every move will always fall under significant scrutiny. And with how much he is making, that is how it should be.

However, Kiffin is among the top coaches in the country. To even consider the idea that Ole Miss could find someone who is better at promoting the brand, acquiring talent, and winning games — at this stage — would be silly. He has helped Ole Miss to become one of the top brands nationally, with a track record of success.

A loss to LSU on Saturday would be disappointing. However, to me, the conversation about Kiffin would require multiple years of eight wins or less.

3. I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask about Walker Howard. Many here had hoped the former five-star would be the LSU QB of the future, but now he’s in Oxford behind Jaxson Dart and Spencer Sanders. When could we expect to see Howard taking starting reps for the Rebels?

Walker is going to be very special, but the plan was never to get him on the field this year. Spencer Sanders will be gone after the season. Jaxson Dart will likely have one more year before going pro, unless he can really ball out over the next eight weeks. And then it’s Walker’s offense for however long he needs to stay.

4. LSU’s secondary is iffy and they’re about to go up against a Lane Kiffin offense. That’s a recipe for disaster, right?

I think that this is the area in which Ole Miss has the best opportunity for success this weekend. Especially if Tre Harris and Zakhari Franklin are on the field.

BUT — to throw the ball requires enough time for Jaxson Dart. The Rebels offensive line has struggled greatly in times over the last few weeks. If it can’t protect Dart, there won’t be an opportunity for him to cut the ball loose. It starts and ends in the trenches.

From there, if things start to click, Ole Miss has a real opportunity to work against a questionable secondary. Now, with that being said, LSU’s secondary has shown the ability to step up when necessary. And it will be necessary this weekend.

5. Speaking as a casual observer of Ole Miss, they look a lil soft along the defensive front. Is that a fair assessment or am I putting too much into the Tulane and Alabama games?

Actually, I think that Ole Miss’ defensive front looked really strong against Alabama in the first half. They were getting a lot of pressure and lived in the Crimson Tide backfield on multiple occasions. There was a serious lull in the second half and the Rebels could not get any penetration. That allowed the comeback. That won’t cut it.

Same with Tulane, though it wasn’t confined to halfs. There were moments in which the defensive front looked really strong. There were moments where it fell flat.

Consistency will be the key on Saturday. And if the defensive front can lock in enough to keep the LSU offensive line occupied for a full 60 minutes, Ole Miss has a lot of athletes on the second level who can step up and get downfield to cover those gaps. Any additional stops by the guys in the trenches would be an added bonus.