LSU Shut Down Florida, but Can the Tigers Handle Bo Wallace and Ole Miss?
On Saturday against Florida, LSU turned back the clock.
The high-flying, fun and gun offense managed just 327 yards against the stout Gator defense, but the Tiger defense harassed quarterback Tyler Murphy all day long, limited the Gators to just 3.53 yards per play and only 240 yards of total offense.
It was a defensive performance that the Tigers have been waiting on for a while. They had given up 437 yards or more in each of their previous three SEC games, including 468 to a Mississippi State team that ranks seventh in the SEC in total offense.
"Any time that you line up against a big, powerful offensive line and running backs that can run and a mobile quarterback, you have to control that line of scrimmage, and I think our guys did as strong a job as they well could have done, and I think the game plan was just right," head coach Les Miles said in quotes released by the university.
But Florida's offense isn't scaring anybody. Ole Miss' offense, on the other hand, can present a challenge if quarterback Bo Wallace is on.
Wallace has thrown for more than 300 yards in each of the last two games, tossing five touchdown passes in the process. He's got big-time targets in wide receivers Donte Moncrief and Laquon Treadwell, and if he gets time, can be a major weapon against the Tigers.
But that's just the problem.
In games against teams with decent defenses, Wallace has struggled this year. He threw for more than 300 yards against Auburn, but was sacked six times and kept his head on a swivel all night as the Tigers dialed up pressure from all over the field.
Alabama did the same earlier in the year, sacking Wallace twice and forcing him to keep his eyes on the pass rush more than his receivers.
LSU looked fantastic last week against the Gators, sacking quarterback Tyler Murphy four times and kept the junior on his toes in the backfield. The defensive front led by defensive ends Jermauria Rasco and Danielle Hunter and defensive tackles Anthony Johnson and Ego Ferguson is able to get pressure with four, which means those passing lanes for Wallace will be minuscule.
"This will be a team that, athletically, will eventually be one of the more talented defenses we've had," head coach Les Miles said on the SEC coaches' teleconference.
Rebel head coach Hugh Freeze knows the key to slowing down the pass rush is establishing the running game.
"I’ve said from day one, whenever you can effectively run the ball, your pass protection is going to get a lot better," he said in quotes released by the university. "That’s what we were able to do enough in that game to keep us balanced somewhat. They definitely played better. Hopefully we can continue to improve.”
How many total yards will Ole Miss gain vs. LSU?
That may prove to be difficult, as starting running back Jeff Scott is "extremely questionable," according to Parrish Alford of the Tupelo (Miss.) Daily Journal.
Can Wallace, Jaylen Walton, all-name team member I'Tavius Mathers and running quarterback Barry Brunetti pick up the slack?
That's a lot to ask. Scott has rushed for 434 yards, two touchdowns and is averaging 8.19 yards per carry. He is one of the more underrated running backs in the SEC; and if he's out, that could spell doom for the Rebels.
Florida's offense doesn't strike fear in the hearts of anyone, but LSU's performance against the Gators offense last week is a sign that the Tigers are back to their old ways.
They'll keep it up this week against the Rebels and further cement themselves as the primary contender to Alabama's SEC West throne.
* Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.
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