LSU Tigers vs. Mississippi State Bulldogs Complete Game Preview
For the second straight week, the Tigers will be on the road to play against the Bulldogs. This week should be a little easier for LSU.
LSU lost their first road game against Georgia in heartbreaking fashion last week. The Tigers now face a below-average Mississippi State in Starkville.
The Bulldogs are 2-2 this season, with their two wins coming against Troy and Alcorn State. They lost to Oklahoma State and Auburn, a team LSU has already beaten, in the final minute.
Here is everything you need to know.
Time: 6:00 pm CST
Place: Davis Wade Stadium, Starkville, Ms.
Spread: LSU by 10 via Scores and Odds
LSU Keys to Victory
Rush the quarterback
The LSU pass rush was pitiful against Georgia. Aaron Murray went unscathed for most of the day as LSU recorded no sacks.
The Tigers had a great start to the season rushing the passer. But the defensive line was far too predictable in their pass rushing moves and could not generate any push up front against Georgia.
Mississippi State sophomore quarterback Dak Prescott will be hyped for this game as a Louisiana native. He leads his offense in passing and rushing, so the Tigers must also stay disciplined in their pass-rushing lanes.
If head coach Dan Mullen decides to go with Tyler Russell, who is recovering from a concussion, then the matchup shapes up well for LSU. Former LSU defensive ends Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery had some of their best games against the Bulldogs partially due to Russell's poor pocket presence.
Run the football
The offensive firework show against Georgia did not surprise anybody. Both defenses are young and inexperienced. LSU showed against Auburn they were prone to giving up huge chunks of yardage.
The biggest shocker was LSU's inability to run the football.
Lost in the Murray-Mettenberger showdown, both teams stayed committed to the running game. LSU and Georgia ran the ball 36 times each.
Despite losing their best running back Todd Gurley in the second quarter, the Bulldogs rushed for 196 yards. LSU only accumulated 77 yards, which comes out to a paltry 2.1 yards-per-carry average.
Jeremy Hill could not get going as LSU could not generate any movement up front. The Tigers offensive line needs to do better if the Tigers are to stay a two-dimensional threat on offense.
Mississippi State Keys to Victory
Establish the run
Mississippi State has given LSU some minor fits in recent seasons, keeping games within reach going into the fourth quarter.
The Bulldogs biggest obstacle has been in the running game. Mississippi State averaged just above two yards-per-attempt against LSU the past two seasons. But head coach Dan Mullen should have some optimism with the way Georgia ran the football last week against the Tigers.
LSU defensive tackle Anthony "Freak" Johnson has been a thorn in their side. If the Bulldogs cannot block Johnson, expect more of the same results.
Do not give up the big play
The Bulldogs need to play with a "bend but don't break" mentality. Do not allow Zach Mettenberger and Jeremy Hill to make explosive plays.
Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. have done a great job as receivers beating defensive backs and getting open. Mississippi State's secondary should mainly worry about keeping everything in front of them.
If the Tigers consistently get five, six or seven yards a play, that is fine. Tighten up around the red zone, make them kick field goals and try to force turnovers in critical situations. Mississippi State cannot trade back-and-forth blows like what Georgia did against LSU.
Players to Watch for LSU
The middle of the LSU offensive line
Left guard Vadal Alexander, center Elliott Porter and right guard Trai Turner got whipped against Georgia.
Georgia's defensive tackles dominated in the running game. Porter and Turner allowed a critical sack on the opening play of LSU's final drive against Georgia.
The trio should be motivated to make up for their mistakes against Mississippi State.
LSU sophomore cornerback Micah Eugene has had a rough season.
Eugene was burned at safety multiple times against Auburn. He also blew an assignment on Georgia's game-winning touchdown pass, according to Glenn Guilbeau of Gannett Louisiana. He made a critical mistake against Alabama on their final drive against LSU last season too, allowing receiver Kevin Norwood an easy release toward the sideline.
Eugene seems to have issues with technique and play recognition. Overall, he needs to tighten up in pass defense.
Where Eguene is dangerous is in defensive coordinator John Chavis' 3-2-6 "Mustang" package. Eugene, alongside Dwayne Thomas, plays the Nickel and Dime back positions.
The Mustang gave Johnny Manziel fits last season because of the speed on the field for LSU. Mississippi State's Dak Prescott is also a mobile quarterback, so expect Eugene to play a critical role in defending him.
Players to Watch for Mississippi State
Junior wide receiver Jameon Lewis is Mississippi State's most explosive playmaker. Lewis is the only wide receiver on the team that has recorded a touchdown this season.
Lewis has recorded a reception of at least 20 yards in every game he has played this season. He is also a threat out of the backfield on reverses.
LSU allowed Bulldogs receiver Chad Bumphis to go for 140 yards and a touchdown last season in Tiger Stadium. With Bumphis gone, Lewis, with a similar size and skill set, has filled in the primary receiver role fine this season.
Lewis stands at 5'9'', so expect LSU's cornerbacks to be aggressive at the line of scrimmage. Lewis and his fellow receivers must fight it off to make plays.
Mississippi State linebacker Deontae Skinner is versatile and consistent. The senior has finished fifth in tackles the past two seasons for the Bulldogs and ranks second so far this season. He has recorded a sack and interception as well.
Skinner needs to make sure everybody is lined up correctly against LSU. Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron has shown himself to be a master at taking advantage of mistakes this season.
What They Are Saying
"We certainly can't have blown coverages," Miles said. "The fastest way to get you beat is play against a quality team and not cover a segment of the defense."
"We have to make the point to the remainder of the defense to just do the things we ask them to do. If we do that, we'll not be just a good defense, but a great defense."
Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen has yet to make decision at who will start quarterback. Mullen says he feels comfortable with Tyler Russell, who is recovering from a concussion, playing Saturday, per Michael Bonner of The Clarion Ledger.
“He’s been here for a while. He’s played a lot of football,” Mullen said. “He’s been in big games. Obviously, I see it very differently than if he was an inexperienced quarterback. Like any situation, he’s ready to go play.”
The trip to Starkville has recently been a tricky one for LSU. In 2011, Mississippi State played LSU closer than any SEC team outside of Alabama. In 2009, LSU needed Chad Jones heroics to squeak by the Bulldogs.
The Tigers struggled to get continuity on offense in those games. But don't expect that to continue this season.
Quarterback Zach Mettenberger is playing at a high level. If he continues, he will be the best signal caller ever at LSU under the Miles tenure.
Receivers Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. have proven to be unstoppable thus far this season. Mississippi State lost two key members of their secondary to the NFL Draft this past offseason, which does not bode well for them.
Expect Landry and Beckham Jr. to both get 100 yards receiving on Saturday.
There could be tired legs and a minor letdown for LSU. The Tigers have played two straight SEC games, one of which was a physically and emotionally taxing road loss. The Bulldogs, on the other hand, are coming off an open week.
With that said, LSU knows they could get a rematch against Georgia in the SEC Championship game if they win the rest of their games. The Tigers will not pack it in just yet.
Dan Mullen has yet to beat LSU during his tenure at Mississippi State. Expect that trend to continue on Saturday.
LSU 38 - Mississippi State 17