There are a few reasons why Ole Miss never should have been in this game. Bo Wallace completed less than 42 percent of his passes. The Rebels turned the ball over four times. And all these mistakes came as Ole Miss played on the road at LSU, the No. 7 team in the country.
But Ole Miss was in this game. In fact, the Rebels actually outgained LSU, 463 yards to 427. LSU had three turnovers of its own, and a seemingly regressing Zach Mettenberger threw two picks. The Rebels had a seven-point lead with a little more than nine minutes to go.
That's when Ole Miss kicked a punt to LSU that ended up swinging the game. Odell Beckham took the kick at his 11-yard line and ran it back Billy Cannon-style for a touchdown to tie the game at 35-35. Almost exactly five minutes of game time later, LSU would launch a nine-play, 64-yard drive that would end with the winning touchdown. (Because all Les Miles games have to have some bizarre aspect, the extra point was missed.)
That it took LSU that much effort to defeat Ole Miss is a sign of how far the program has come in Hugh Freeze's first year. That the Rebels still came up short, despite all of LSU's mistakes, is a sign that it is still a few paces behind the top tier of the SEC West. A mild upset in next week's Egg Bowl would still be required to get Ole Miss to a bowl.
LSU did keep its long-shot SEC West hopes alive, meaning that the top three in the division (Alabama and Texas A&M being the others) all still have at least a mathematical chance of winning the berth in Atlanta going into next week. In one sense, though, LSU was simply trying to prove that Ole Miss wasn't quite good enough to knock the Tigers from the ranks of that top tier. The answer was, "Not yet."