Top-ranked LSU huge favorite over Mississippi

BY foxsports • November 18, 2011

In the long history of the LSU-Mississippi rivalry, the chasm between these two programs has rarely been wider.

Top-ranked LSU is closing in on an SEC Western Division championship and is looking to secure a berth in the national title game. The Tigers are also trying for their first 11-0 start since 1958.

Ole Miss (2-8, 0-6) is just two losses away from arguably the worst season in school history.

LSU coach Les Miles knows the situation. But he's not expecting an easy game when the two teams meet in Oxford on Saturday.

''Ole Miss is a team that's very dangerous,'' Miles said. ''The fact that they will see us as a great rival will be an opportunity for them to play best at home and we must be prepared for their best shot and certainly we will prepare that way.''

Even though Miles is being cautious, it's hard to imagine the Rebels pose much of a threat.

Ole Miss has now 12 straight SEC games, a streak that dates back to last season. University officials announced on Nov. 7 that fourth-year coach Houston Nutt will resign at the end of the season.

But that hasn't stopped the embarrassment. Ole Miss lost to Louisiana Tech 27-7 on homecoming last weekend, and on Tuesday suspended starting quarterback Randall Mackey and leading rusher Jeff Scott for Saturday's game.

The Rebels' likely quarterback will be Zack Stoudt, who has thrown two touchdowns and seven interceptions this season while completing less than 50 percent of his passes.

Ole Miss defensive end Kentrell Lockett insists his team hasn't lost focus this season, even if the results suggest otherwise.

''The team hasn't quit,'' Lockett said. ''If the team had quit there wouldn't be anybody here on Saturdays. They would be somewhere else ... I guess people are saying we're quitting because we're losing, but there's no difference. Nothing's changed.''

LSU is playing at such a high level that last weekend's 42-9 victory over Western Kentucky was considered a disappointment. The Tigers got off to a slow start - leading just 14-7 at halftime - before pulling away for the easy victory.

The lapse in concentration could be excused considering LSU was coming off an emotional 9-6 win over then-No. 2 Alabama, but the Tigers were still irritated at how they performed.

''We're just going to go back the basics, like fundamental tackling and doing everything in practice with a tempo,'' LSU safety Brandon Taylor said.

If the Tigers are back to normal, they've proven very difficult to beat. Miles has taken an unorthodox quarterback situation and turned it into a positive, with Jarrett Lee and Jordan Jefferson combining for 1,647 passing yards, 17 touchdowns and three interceptions. Running backs Spencer Ware, Michael Ford and Alfred Blue have combined for more than 1,500 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns.

Then there's the LSU defense that's given up just 10.7 points per game. The Tigers have been even better in conference play, giving up just 7.8 points per game.

Nutt knows winning is a long shot, but he also believes his team is much more talented than it has shown this season.

The Rebels have several promising young players, including receivers Donte Moncrief and Nickolas Brassell, who have combined for 49 receptions, 780 yards and six touchdowns.

So far, the young talent hasn't translated into many victories. All the losses have made it easy to forget that Nutt actually has won two out of three games against the Tigers since coming to Oxford before the 2008 season.

''We would like to see a game this year where we put it together,'' Nutt said. ''We have not complemented one another. We have not had a game where the offense complemented the defense or the defense complemented the offense. It is all that togetherness and everyone playing at a high level that we have not been able to get this year.''

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AP Sports Writer Brett Martel in Baton Rouge, La., contributed to this story.

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Follow David Brandt on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/davidbrandtAP


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