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LSU, Ole Miss meet in offensive showdown

OXFORD, Miss. (AP) - LSU's Zach Mettenberger and Mississippi's Bo Wallace were quarterbacks who appeared on the brink of stardom last season.

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Mettenberger has made the jump. Wallace isn't quite there yet.

The two will meet in a potentially touchdown-filled showdown when No. 6 LSU (6-1, 3-1) travels to face Ole Miss (3-3, 1-3) on Saturday at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.

Mettenberger has been one of the best quarterbacks in the country through seven games, throwing for 1,890 yards, 15 touchdowns and two interceptions. He's helped by two elite receivers - Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. - and an elite running game led by Jeremy Hill.

Wallace hasn't been bad, it's just the Ole Miss coaches want more. He's thrown for 1,444 yards, nine touchdowns and three interceptions.

But his decision-making has been suspect at times. Freeze said a prime example was in the team's final offensive drive against Texas A&M, when the score was tied at 38.

Freeze said the Rebels had a man open on first down, but Wallace decided to throw to the other side of the field. The pass fell incomplete.

The problems aren't all Wallace's fault. On second down, Wallace hit Ja-Mes Logan in stride for what looked like a first down, but the veteran receiver dropped the ball.

Ole Miss ended up having to punt and Texas A&M drove the field for a game-winning field goal.

Freeze said Wallace must make better decisions, but receivers also must catch the ball.

''It's something that's sort of like if you have a case of the shanks in golf - you don't want to talk about it a lot,'' Freeze said. ''We'll continue to throw and catch. To explain exactly why it's happening, I really don't have the explanation. They've happened at some bad times for us.''

LSU coach Les Miles said Wallace is better than a year ago. The Tigers' pass defense is third in the SEC this season, giving up 196.3 yards per game.

''I think with age he's developing very well,'' Miles said. ''He's always had kind of a really live arm, and I think he always makes really good decisions. Just with a little bit more age you make those decisions more comfortably, and it comes out of your hand in a right fashion.''

The Rebels have lost three straight games. LSU needs one more victory to set up a clash with Alabama on Nov. 9 that could decide who wins the Western Division.

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Here are five things to watch as Ole Miss hosts No. 6 LSU:

TOUGH SERIES: Though LSU has won the past three games in the series, the games are usually close. The Tigers escaped with a 41-35 victory last season in Baton Rouge, largely thanks to a punt return for a TD by Odell Beckham Jr. in the fourth quarter.

METTENBERGER'S FAVORITE DUO: LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger is having a fantastic season and there's no doubt who his favorite targets are - Jarvis Landry and Beckham. The two have combined for 83 receptions, 1,407 yards and 13 touchdowns. Landry has the most catches with 46, but Beckham is the better deep threat, averaging nearly 20 yards per catch.

LSU BETTER ON DEFENSE: LSU's defensive numbers haven't been quite as good so far this season, but the Tigers have been better the past two weeks and haven't allowed a touchdown in six quarters. LSU hopes to be improve against the run - the Tigers rank ninth in the SEC, giving up 152.6 yards per game.

OLE MISS INJURIES: Ole Miss is dealing with a myriad of injuries that could keep about half of the starting defense on the sideline. DE C.J. Johnson decided to have season-ending ankle surgery on Thursday, meaning the Rebels will be without arguably their best pass rusher. Ole Miss will also miss DE Robert Nkemdiche (hamstring) and LB Serderius Bryant (concussion).

GREAT FRESHMEN: Ole Miss continues to rely on several freshmen for production. WR Laquon Treadwell leads the team with 32 catches for 327 yards and two touchdowns. TE Evan Engram has been a pleasant surprise, with 18 catches for 237 yards and three touchdowns. On defense, safety Tony Connor is already an important part of the secondary. He has 30 tackles and an interception this season.

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

Copyright 2017 by STATS LLC and Associated Press.
Any commercial use or distribution without the express written
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