BATON ROUGE, La. -- No. 3 Ole Miss (7-0, 4-0 SEC) has its national championship hopes intact as it travels to face No. 24 LSU (6-2, 2-2) on Saturday, but the Rebels have won just once at Tiger Stadium in their last six visits.
Ole Miss is the rare road team to be favored over LSU at Death Valley, however, and it will take the best game of the season from the Tigers' erratic offense in order to pull the upset.
With an assist from ESPN's Stats & Information group, here are five storylines and trends worth watching Saturday:
Dominant Rebels defense: A quick glance at the SEC's weekly statistical leaderboard makes it clear that Ole Miss boasts arguably the conference's top defense. The Rebels lead the league in scoring defense (10.6 ppg), rank second in total defense (290.6 ypg) and run defense (97.1 ypg) and are fourth in pass defense (193.4 ypg, plus 15 interceptions, which ties for the most in the FBS).
But even those gaudy numbers don't adequately explain how dominant the Rebels have been. ESPN's 19.43 defensive efficiency score (points per game that the defense adds to Ole Miss' scoring margin through contributions like forcing turnovers, preventing points and ending drives) for the Rebels' defense is the best in the nation. Not only that, Ole Miss is on pace for the best score of any defense in the last decade.
The Rebels have scored four defensive touchdowns and lead the nation with 90 points off turnovers, so it will be incumbent on LSU's offense to take care of the ball -- the Tigers have just nine turnovers this season -- because it's hard enough to beat Ole Miss without giving away free points. Opposing offenses have scored just six touchdowns against the Rebels this season, another FBS best.
Good Bo/Bad Bo: For most of his career, Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace has been plagued by inconsistency, leading to the popular narrative that there is a "Good Bo" and a "Bad Bo." Bad Bo hasn't made an appearance in SEC play this season, however.
Wallace has yet to commit a turnover in an SEC game and is on pace to break multiple Ole Miss season passing records. He is averaging 237 passing yards, 1.75 touchdowns and no interceptions through four SEC games thus far.
In two starts against LSU, Wallace has passed for 656 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions and has rushed for 72 yards and two scores.
Keep an eye on whether Wallace enjoys success as a runner Saturday. LSU has done a better job against mobile quarterbacks lately, but it has allowed 58.3 rushing yards per game to opposing quarterbacks, seventh-most in the nation, and an SEC-worst 15 runs of 10 yards or more by QBs. Wallace averaged 38.3 rushing yards per game in the last three games.
Fourth-quarter QBs: Wallace and LSU's Anthony Jennings have had their moments in the fourth quarter. Wallace, in fact, has been one of the nation's best QBs in the final period.
His fourth-quarter Total QBR (90.7) leads the SEC, and he is tied for the nation's best touchdown-to-interception differential (6-0) in the fourth quarter.
Jennings hasn't been particularly effective in any quarter -- his overall 49.3 QBR ranks 81st among FBS QBs -- but he succeeded on crucial drives at the end of wins against Wisconsin and Florida. Jennings is 10-for-23 for 235 yards and two touchdowns in the fourth quarter with an average of 23.5 yards per completion.
Mixed bag on third down: Both defenses are effective on third down, with LSU tying for fourth in the FBS by forcing 34 three-and-outs this season. Ole Miss is tied for 10th with 30.
Jennings and the LSU offense haven't been particularly successful on third down, however. The Tigers' worst outing came against Auburn -- when freshman Brandon Harris started at quarterback and LSU went 0-for-13 on third down -- and overall LSU has an SEC-high 30 drives that ended with a three-and-out. Only seven FBS teams have more, and Ole Miss has just 19.
Looking ahead: Last week's 41-3 win against Kentucky was big in many ways for LSU. Not only did it help the Tigers get back to .500 in SEC play, but it removed the pressure of achieving bowl eligibility.
That's a big deal since ESPN's Football Power Index rates the Tigers' remaining schedule as the toughest in the FBS. Beyond facing Ole Miss (which ranks third in the FPI), LSU will face Alabama (second), Arkansas (20th) and Texas A&M (18th).
Ole Miss' schedule is more manageable, although it still must host Auburn (first), Presbyterian (FCS) and Mississippi State (fifth) and visit Arkansas (20th).