No. 8 LSU braces for improved, motivated Ole Miss

No. 8 LSU braces for improved, motivated Ole Miss

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) One can only imagine how badly Hugh Freeze covets a victory at LSU in his first season as head coach at Mississippi.

Sure, the Rebels and Tigers have been rivals for over a century. But Ole Miss (5-5, 2-4 Southeastern Conference) heads into its Saturday afternoon tilt against No. 8 LSU in Death Valley needing only one more victory to become bowl eligible. That would enhance what has already been a notable turnaround from a hapless 2-10 campaign a year ago.

``It's something you wish wasn't talked about as much,'' Freeze said of reaching the six-win plateau. ``It would be nice to have that out of the way, but we don't. There's still a lot to play for. You want it so badly for the fans, but also for the few seniors that we do have. You want the young ones to experience what that is like because we need the extra practices.

``We need that badly, to start building our program.''

The end of the schedule is not entirely favorable for the Rebels, who finish with LSU and a Mississippi State team that has already won seven games.

LSU is once again an elite team on the national stage and technically not yet out of the race to win the SEC. If the Tigers finish with victories over Ole Miss and Arkansas, they could win the SEC Western Division - with a little help. To advance to the SEC title game, LSU would have to finish in a three-way tie with Texas A&M and Alabama, which could happen if Texas A&M wins its final SEC game against Missouri and Alabama somehow gets upset by struggling Auburn in the Iron Bowl next week.

Even if that scenario doesn't play out, the Tigers appreciate that winning the Magnolia Bowl trophy this weekend and the Golden Boot at Arkansas the following Friday would put them in position to receive a bid to a top bowl game.

``I can promise you that this team will want to play a very quality opponent and play a very prestigious postseason bowl game,'' LSU coach Les Miles said.

This season's Ole Miss-LSU matchup looks like a potential mismatch in the Tigers' favor, but Miles knows all too well how the Rebels seem to play some of their best football against his team. The series is even at 2-2 since it was spiced up with the addition of the Magnolia Bowl trophy in 2008.

``We'll recognize that this is a team that has us marked on their calendar,'' Miles said. ``We've certainly been involved in a number of very competitive games, and we recognize that there's a history between the two schools.''

Recent history favors LSU, which has won the last two meetings and has been listed as more than two-touchdown favorites on Saturday. LSU fields one of the nation's best defenses and leads the SEC against the pass.

The Tigers have a ferocious pass rush that has posted 26 sacks, led by defensive ends Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo, who have combined for 10 and each had one last week. LSU's young but talented defensive backfield has also been good. LSU has 14 interceptions, and Tigers defenders are confident in their ability to stifle a Mississippi offense in which quarterback Bo Wallace gets his unit line up quickly and runs a lot of plays.

``You have to react fast to what they are doing. You have to match their tempo,'' Montgomery said. ``If we are able to handle it, they will change their style of play and do something they are not used to doing.''

Offensively, LSU has demonstrated more balance in its last two games. First-year starter Zach Mettenberger has passed for 298 yards against Alabama and 273 yards against Mississippi State, adding greater explosiveness to an offense that has averaged more than 190 yards rushing per game.

``Having it happen two games in a row opened everybody's eyes,'' Mettenberger said. ``They definitely have to respect our passing game now for sure.''

Wallace has been throwing the ball well all season and he can also scramble, accounting for 250.8 yards per game. He set career highs with 31 completions and 403 yards passing in a 27-26 loss to Vanderbilt last week. If he can avoid mistakes against an LSU defense that forces a lot of them, he just might help Freeze to a landmark victory in his first season.

``We're excited about getting back this weekend and go to LSU and in a really fun environment in front of 90,000 people,'' Wallace said. ``We'll be playing on (national television) again and have a chance to show how much improvement we've had and get back on track.''

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Need to Know: Five safe draft picks for the Redskins

Need to Know: Five safe draft picks for the Redskins

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, April 22, four days before the 2018 NFL draft.  

Five safe picks for the Redskins

Sometimes teams try to hit home runs with their draft picks. They may hit a few but they also will strike out a lot. Teams often are better off trying to hit solid singles and doubles. Here are five picks who would are unlikely to make many Pro Bowls but the Redskins would not regret the pick if they turned in the cards with their names on it. 

RB Kerryon Johnson, Auburn—I’m starting off here with a player who would be a safe pick in the third round. Of course, the Redskins don’t have a third right now but if they do swing a trade and get one, Johnson would be a good pick. He doesn’t have breakaway speed, which is one reason why he might be available in the third. He is a grinder who will be an upgrade over Samaje Perine and Rob Kelley. 

DL Vita Vea, Washington—There is plenty of hand wringing over whether Vea is a three-down player or just a base defense nose tackle. But even if he can’t rush the passer very well his floor is a player who can go a long way towards helping the Redskins stop the run, a chronic weakness. This is why a lot of fans and media are urging the Redskins to not overthink this and take a player that will, at a minimum, bolster one of their weakest areas. 

OL Billy Price, Ohio State—He started 55 games for the Buckeyes, the most of any player in the storied history of the program. He did suffer the partial tear of a chest muscle in the combine but that will be fully healed by training camp. When he’s ready, he’s an explosive, smart, and powerful player. Just plug him in at left guard and the Redskins’ O-line is set with all home-grown talent. 

LB Leighton Vander Esch, Boise State—He doesn’t have the ceiling that the more heralded Roquan Smith and Tremaine Edmunds have. However, he may have a higher floor. Smith is undersized, and Edmunds will be highly drafted based more on potential than on production. At 6-4, 256, Vander Esch has plenty of size, and he racked up 141 tackles last year on his way to defensive player of the year honors in the Mountain West. 

 CB Isaiah Oliver, Colorado—The All-Pac-12 selection has the size and athleticism that add up to a safe pick in the second round. He needs some work on technique, but he has enough natural athletic ability—he competed in the decathlon—to be a productive cornerback right out of the gate. One other plus that fans will appreciate is that his strength is press coverage, not off man. 

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCS.

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Days until:

—OTAs start (5/22) 30
—Training camp starts (7/26) 95
—Redskins @ Cardinals (9/9) 140

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2018 NBA Playoffs Wizards-Raptors Game 4: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

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2018 NBA Playoffs Wizards-Raptors Game 4: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

John Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter and the Washington Wizards battle Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Serge Ibaka and the Toronto Raptors on Sunday night in Game 4 of the 2018 NBA Playoffs.

Here is all you need to know: TV, live stream and radio info, tip-off time, plus three things to watch:


Series: Raptors lead 2-1
Where: Capital One Arena
Tip-off: 6 p.m.
TV: NBC Sports Washington (pregame coverage begins at 5 p.m.)
Live stream:
Radio: 1500 AM

Time to get even

After a momentous Game 3 win, the Wizards have breathed some life back into their season. On Sunday, they can make this a brand new series.

With a win in Game 4 for the Wizards, they would tie the series and send it back to Toronto ensuring another home game in Washington. A loss would put them down 3-1, a deficit that has historically been hard to overcome.

Only 11 teams have accomplished the feat, most notably the Cavaliers in the 2016 NBA Finals. The Warriors did the same that year in the conference finals. It has only been done three times since 2006. 

How will Raptors respond?

Game 3 took on a much different tone and style than the previous two and it played into the Wizards' hands. It was much more physical and Washington did a good job of instigating contact and using it to their advanage. After the game, several players highlighted Markieff Morris shoving OG Anunoby and Serge Ibaka as a turning point.

Just because it worked in Game 3 doesn't mean it will carry over successfully in Game 4. Not only could the Raptors respond with their own dose of brutality, but the referees may try to nip anything of the sort in the bud early on.

It would not be surprising if Game 4 was officiated very tightly and if a message was sent in the first quarter to the players. After seeing how well it worked in Game 3, the Wizards will likely try to test the limits.

Playoff Beal

The Raptors will also try to adjust their defense following Bradley Beal's 28-point outburst in Game 3. He wasn't much of a factor in the first two games of the series, but broke out in Game 3 to lead the Wizards to a win.

The Wizards did a good job of getting Beal involved early. He was found for open looks from three in the first half and had two three-pointers in each of the first two quarters. Beal also took it upon himself to attack the rim and force the issue.

The Raptors held Beal back in the first two games by being rough with him and in Game 2 they got him in foul trouble. Surely he will be a big emphasis of their gameplan on Sunday.

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For more on the Wizards-Raptors series, check out or latest Wizards Tipoff podcast: