Odds makers have this one as LSU by between 3.5 to 4.5.
That means, minus the homefield advantage, this game is a toss-up in their eyes. They don't make a living getting that kind of thing wrong. If I were a betting man, I'd sit this one out.
But I don't need some Vegas numbers guy to tell me this game has all the potential to be a nail-biter. Here's all you need to know: LSU is a talent-rich team struggling with young QBs and an underperforming defense; Ole Miss is at the apogee of the Orgeron recruiting classes and has a good (if slightly nutty - pun intended) coach and all the confidence in the world.
This game is NOT going to be boring. This I would place money on. In Kirston Pittman's 6-year LSU football career, the scores have been 17-14 (LSU), 27-24 (LSU), 40-7 (LSU), 23-20 OT (LSU), and 41-24 (LSU). Of the two lopsided wins, the first was thanks to an absolutely dominant LSU defense, and the second was a bit closer than the score thanks to - in contrast - a floundering LSU defense that gave up 466 yards of offense but made big turnovers happen when they needed them.
I'd do a detailed matchup comparison for this game, but it's fruitless (and I'm - ahem - busy). Both teams, honestly, are talented enough everywhere on the field (and unpredictable enough as well) to beat the other team.
Here's what I will say.
Jevan Sneed > Jarrett Lee
Ole Miss O-Line = LSU D-Line
LSU O-Line > Ole Miss D-Line
Everyone's Special teams >> LSU Special Teams (minus Colt David)
LSU Playmakers > Ole Miss Playmakers (just barely, and maybe homerish)
Key matchup? On both sides, the QB versus the second level defense. Whoever wins that, wins the game.
Doesn't make you feel very confident, does it? Well, here's some things to hope for.
Jarrett Lee is (hopefully) exiting the darkness and entering the light. After the hell that was the first 38 minutes of the Troy game, he and the coaches now know that he's got the talent and the gonads to come right back from stupid mistakes to cram it down the defense's throats. Lord knows he's got the talent around him to help him do it.
LSU has yet to put a complete football game together this season - not even close. This may (hopefully) be that game.
The emotion will (hopefully) be on LSU's side. Particularly on defense, there are a lot of seniors playing their last game in Tiger Stadium. They'll be looking to exit the stage having handed Ole Miss an ass kicking. And the fans are going to start drinkin' Friday night for this one. So you know they'll be fired up.
O-line is healthy. D-line is healthy. Hell, everyone but Hatch is healthy. Hopefully, that will pay huge dividends in the fourth quarter again.
LSU is (hopefully) positioned for the Cotton Bowl and the team won't want to lose that opportunity for something on the 2008 side of New Years Day.
The seniors have (hopefully) had enough of losing, thank you very much, for one season. No one on this team - not even Kirston Pittman - has lost more than 3 games in a season as a Tiger. Pretty cool.
So, be hopeful. Odds are this is going to be a close one. I say Vegas is right and the home field advantage carries the day.