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Ole Miss vs. LSU 2014: Preview, predictions and how to watch

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Just before Halloween, the Rebels head into Carcosa to take on the Yellow King.

Image by Grant Apgar (@grantwill)
Image by Grant Apgar (@grantwill)

There's a reason that the Magnolia Bowl is a rivalry game that both schools fan bases approach very differently. For LSU, we are oftentimes another obstacle -- a nuisance even -- en route to bigger aspirations. Ole Miss fans, however, have suffered through having two of the Rebels' best seasons in school history spoiled by the LSU Tigers.

On Halloween of 1959, the last time that the Ole Miss Rebels were ranked No. 3 on the road in Baton Rouge, Billy Cannon returned a punt that cemented his Heisman Trophy and spoiled a perfect and likely national championship winning season. In 2003, David Cutcliffe's Rebels were undefeated in SEC play with a shot at making the SEC Championship Game a reality before being defeated by LSU in Oxford as Eli Manning unceremoniously tripped to the ground on a late fourth down.

We Rebels are all too familiar with letting LSU spoil an otherwise excellent, potential championship winning season, which is why many of us, behind our false bravado, are nervous as hell about Saturday night's date with the Tigers. But this Ole Miss team ain't those Ole Miss teams, in that they've proven themselves capable of bucking a trend or two; and this LSU team is far from those LSU teams in terms of their relative talent level and the type of season they're having. Ole Miss should win this one, and it wouldn't be surprising for them to do so in convincing fashion. If they do, they'll go a long, long way in exorcising the LSU demons that have haunted us for generations.

Rebels_mediumPhoto by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

How to watch

When: Saturday, 6:15 p.m. CT
Where: Baton Rouge
TV: ESPN
Online streaming: WatchESPN.com
Radio: Ole Miss Football Radio Network

LSU's season so far

Record: 6-2 (2-2 SEC)

- No. 14 Wisconsin - W 28-24
- Sam Houston State - W 56-0
- Louisiana Monroe - W 31-0
- Mississippi State - L 34-29
- New Mexico State - W 63-7
- at No. 5 Auburn - L 41-7
- at Florida - W 30-27
- Kentucky - W 41-3

3 things to watch

Special teams

Will Gleason's rugby-style punts have been great at avoiding return men and penning teams deep in their own territory, but their line-drive nature means that when someone does field one, they typically have a lot of room to work with. That could be a problem against LSU's Tre'Davious White, who is tied for fourth in the country with four returns of at least 20 yards and housed a 67-yarder against Kentucky last week.

On the other side, Anthony Alford's departure means the Rebs have had to rely on freshman Markell Pack, who's been a liability at times fielding punts. Don't forget that it was a Korvic Neat muff that sparked LSU's fourth-quarter rally last season.

Finally, there's the kicking game. If this thing comes down to a field goal like it did in 2013, Ole Miss will be counting on Gary Wunderlich, who has connected on three of his four attempts this season but is a true freshman playing his first game in Death Valley.

LSU's running game

Anthony Jennings, to be frank, is not a good quarterback. That means LSU will have to establish the run in order to move the ball, something they did with ease while piling up 303 rushing yards against Kentucky last week. The only semblance of a weakness in the Ole Miss defense has been against the power run (think back to Bama's last drive of the first half), and the downhill, I-formation attack led by bruising freshman phenom Leonard Fournette (5.0 ypc, seven touchdowns) could potentially exploit that. But if the Tigers stall on the ground or fall into an early deficit, it will be a long night for Jennings (just ask Justin Worley).

Travin Dural

Dural is a wide receiver, but he's the key to the LSU running game -- his deep-threat ability will be about the only thing stopping Ole Miss from packing nine in the box every play. The guy averages 25.6 yards per reception, is second in the country with eight catches of at least 30 yards and has had two of his seven touchdown grabs come from 94 and 80 yards out. Whether Jennings can actually get him the ball downfield against an elite secondary is another thing, but if nothing else, Dural will be an irritant to Dave Wommack's defensive game plan.

What to drink

This weekend, we'll be honoring our Louisiana-based opponents while also reminding them that we're better drinkers. While they swill from the biggest aluminum receptacle on hand, we'll be mixing up a New Orleans classic: the Sazerac.

In a glass mixing pitcher, mix 2-3 drops each of Peychaud's and Angostura bitters with 2-3 drops of Herbsaint, Pernod or Absinthe, and maybe a teaspoon of simple syrup or less. Seriously, tiny little drops of everything. This drink is like 98 percent rye whiskey.

Speaking of the rye, go ahead and pour about 3 oz of the brown medicine in, stir it up, add some ice cubes and stir some more. While you stir, think about Dexter McCluster throwing a perfect spiral over Patrick Peterson's dumb head to Shay Hodge, or about the Ole Miss defense beating Mettenberger and co. with about 18 starters out with injury. Good, good.

Now strain this into a chilled cocktail glass, dose with a heavy zest of lemon, and add a bit of lemon peel.

If the score is close at halftime, just start pulling from the bottle of rye. Time to get serious.

Predictions

The Ghost of Jay Cutler: 27-13 Ole Miss

Catfish Powe-boy: 24-20 Ole Miss

smeargle: 27-17 Ole Miss