Ole Miss vying for bowl game in season finale at LSU

NCAA Football

Ole Miss has a good chance to go to a bowl game. LSU can only play spoiler.

The two longtime SEC rivals meet in their regular-season finale Saturday afternoon at Baton Rouge, La.

The Rebels are 4-4 in coach Lane Kiffin’s first season, and they’re eager to play after last week’s game against Texas A&M was canceled because of COVID-19 issues in the Ole Miss program.

“I hope it’s not if it happens; I’m assuming it’s when it happens,” Kiffin said of a potential bowl bid. “We’re excited about that. It helps for development of all your players.”

Ole Miss hasn’t played since beating Mississippi State 31-24 in the Egg Bowl on Nov. 28, a three-week break between games.

“I don’t think it’s ideal,” Kiffin said of the layoff. “We’re definitely going to have fresh legs. That part is good. It has taken a little time getting back into it. Obviously, we wanted to keep playing.”

Kiffin spoke to his players about the significance of playing their second-biggest rival, albeit a much weaker team than last season’s national championship winner.

“You’re going to remember the rest of your life if you go into Tiger Stadium and beat LSU,” Kiffin told the team. “Nobody’s going to remember if it’s COVID or opt-outs or any of that stuff.

“This is a huge game and really important too, besides beating LSU. I think all of you (reporters) would’ve said that this was a successful season, after seeing the all-SEC schedule rollout, that you’re going to have a winning record.”

LSU (4-5) can’t have a winning record and is bowl ineligible after self-imposing a postseason ban amid an NCAA investigation into the program. But the Tigers are coming off their best performance of the season, a 37-34 upset victory at then-No. 6 Florida last Saturday.

The Tigers were coming off a 55-17 loss to No. 1 Alabama and barely had 50 scholarship players available because of COVID-19 issues.

“I think we’re all going to learn from having a week like we had last week where some teams or some men would have crumbled,” LSU coach Ed Orgeron said. “And we decided to get stronger and fight.

“The players dug in. They were not happy. Nobody was. We wanted to represent LSU in the right way. We know what everybody is saying about us out there and all that. It’s not true. We gotta show everybody. The only way you’re going to do it is to show them.”

LSU hopes to get a few more players back this week, but it will still be short-handed.

“I think we have 54 guys available or something like that,” Orgeron said. “If we can do it (at Florida), we can do it at home.”

Freshman quarterback Max Johnson made his first college start against Florida and passed for 239 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions

“I think that we’re very impressed with Max’s leadership, his toughness, his ability to run the football, his ability to make decisions under pressure,” Orgeron said. “And the biggest thing is no turnovers.”

–Field Level Media

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