Mississippi State comes off of a bye week after a 62-7 thrashing of Troy. They now meet their toughest opponent of the season in 10th-ranked LSU coming to Starkville after a tough loss at Georgia, 44-41.
Who: Mississippi State (2-2) vs. LSU (4-1)
Where: Starkville, Miss.; Davis Wade Stadium at Scott Field
When: Saturday, October 5; 6 p.m CT on ESPN
Series Record: LSU leads, 70-33; The Last Time: LSU, 37-17 in Baton Rouge 2012
Mississippi State is coming off of a bye week after a big win and has had two weeks to prepare for the visiting Tigers. LSU is off of a tough loss on the road at Georgia and it will be interesting to see what kind of performance they put together. We could see two things: 1)LSU could come in with their heads down after losing late in a game they probably should have one or 2) LSU could be as focused as ever and take their frustration out on the Bulldogs. We obviously won't know until the game is kicked off later tonight at Davis Wade Stadium under the lights.
Let's take a look at what I think MSU has to do to win today's ball game against the Tigers of LSU.
Have the Time of Possession in Your Favor : The Bulldogs have done this almost as well as anyone else in the conference this season averaging 35:53 per game while their opponents hold the ball for 24:07. Holding on to the football and having long, sustainable drives that end in points is crucial for MSU. With LSU's new balance that they've added with Cam Cameron, they don't mind getting into shootouts as opposed to the low-scoring affairs that they had in the past. It's key that the Bulldogs not only hold the advantage in time of possession, but score points on their long drives instead of stalling as they did many times against Auburn.
Make Stops on 1st and 2nd Downs: Geoff Collins mentioned to us this week how crucial it was for the Bulldog defense to force Zach Mettenburger and the LSU offense into third-down-and-long situations. The Tigers' offense works so well because they're able to get positive yardage on first and second setting up a third and short if they do face third down situations. This season, the Bulldogs are only allowing 34% of third downs to be converted against them. Getting LSU's offense off of the field, especially early, is the only way that they will be able to stay in the game for four quarters.
Play Aggressively: Mississippi State has to play smash-mouth football defensively against the Tigers. LSU has always been known for the power running game and aggressiveness on defense. If MSU plays it safe and soft, they have very little chance in this game. Dan Mullen told us this week that even though LSU has added another dimension offensively with the passing game, they still haven't changed their identity. Bringing pressure to Mettenburger and hitting him often could get him out of rhythm and force him to make a mistake which is what he did at times against Georgia. UGA brought pressure on the quarterback and running game and had some success even though they were beat on a few passing plays. Sometimes you can give up a big play here or there, no pressure on Mettenburger will lead to him picking the secondary apart all day long.
Prediction: This is an interesting game for me. I thought MSU would have its best chance to spring an upset on LSU if the Tigers won last week against Georgia because it would then become a trap game for a team that was cruising through the season. After watching LSU in that game, I see lots of flaws defensively that I have not seen from this team since before Nick Saban was coaching in the early 2000's. The secondary looked clueless at times and the offensively line is very, very young. With that said, this is still LSU. The horses are still out there for Les Miles and they're still a contender. MSU has to hit the Tigers in the mouth early and have the young players doubting themselves. When confidence begins to rise for the Bengals, they become dangerous once again. I think MSU will give the Tigers a fight but Miles will find a way to win this one.