NCAAF Thursday Night Prediction: LSU Gets Their First Loss at Mississippi State

Mark CrystelContributor IIISeptember 13, 2011

With eight seconds left and the ball at Auburn's two yard line, Chris Relf called his own number.

"I feel great about this run" said the fleet footed quarterback, who ended the day with 196 yards passing and 106 yards on the ground. 

The 6'4" senior, who, much like Cam Newton, can gain three yards just by falling forward, was stopped inches short of the goal line when Auburn safety Ryan Smith went for the low chop and up-ended Relf.

That's how the game ended.

You better believe the multi-dimensional quarterback will be fired up for this game, eager to make up for last week's close loss in front of the home crowd.

Meanwhile, LSU comes into this game ranked No. 3 in the Associated Press poll, and despite the high ranking, is just a small favorite at Mississippi State.

Oddsmakers have it about right, because Mississippi State is at least equal to LSU in talent. 

Frankly, the Bulldogs should actually be favored for being at home.

Are the Tigers for real, or has the high profile win over Oregon elevated them to the penthouse level when they belong on lower floors?  And should they be a three point favorite at Mississippi State?


They've got the defense, but are now without Pat Peterson and the offense has been bailed out quite a few times.

Let's take a closer look, starting with the beginning of the 2010 season.

LSU started off last season with a win over UNC, but didn't score a touchdown in the second half on UNC’s second string defense. The Tar Heels had a chance to win the game, but failed to complete two pass attempts from the LSU six yard line on the final two plays of the game, as a pair of passes from quarterback T.J. Yates sailed through the hands of receiver Zach Pianalto.

After beating a terrible Vanderbilt team, they forced five interceptions and two fumbles out of Mississippi State and defeated the Bulldogs by 22 points, despite getting out gained by four yards. LSU finished with 264 yards of offense.

Once again, defense was the name of the game in a 20-14 home win over West Virginia, because LSU’s offense gained just 230 yards and the unit scored one touchdown.

They followed up with a two point win at home against Tennessee, and took a penalty from the Volunteers on the last play of the game to pull out the victory. Tennessee seemed to have stopped LSU on a botched play, but a quick substitution and snap left the Volunteers with too many men on the field. LSU got one more chance, and scored from a yard out with no time remaining.


Momentum turned for the better at Florida when the Tigers used a fake field goal, which was an inch away from being a dropped forward pass, to obtain a quality win over the Gators.  Next up was a warm up for Auburn against an FCS school, and the offense failed to get 300 yards at home against McNeese State, and then was unable to obtain 250 yards against Auburn’s porous defense.

Twelve other teams last season, including Tennessee-Chattanooga, UL Monroe and Arkansas State, managed more total yards against the national champion.

The Auburn game was LSU’s big chance to show the country their great defense against a top team, but Cam Newton and company shredded the unit for 526 yards.

Imagine what Chris Relf can accomplish this time without Pat Peterson to worry about!

LSU's best game was the revenge game at home against Alabama. The Tigers felt like they were robbed in 2009 when Pat Peterson seemingly intercepted a Greg McElroy pass and appeared to get both feet in bounds for a huge momentum changer, but the referees gave the ball back to Alabama after a film review.

After the Alabama game, a sloppy win over UL-Monroe prompted last season's article Holy Masoli: Pat Peterson and the LSU Tigers ranked #5  vs. Ole Miss where I detailed several reasons LSU was a bit overrated coming into the game, and why Ole Miss was worth a close look as a 16 point underdog.  


LSU was coming off a seemingly easy blowout of UL-Monroe, but the offense was hardly impressive. The Tigers went four-and-out on four occasions. Four times they started drives in UL-Monroe territory and failed to gain 20 yards. The offense finished the day with 276 total yards, and quarterbacks Jarrett Lee and Jordan Jefferson failed to pass for 100 yards combined.

LSU’s defense was the dominant force as usual, creating five turnovers that led to 31 points, including an interception return for a touchdown, an 85 yard interception return and a fumble recovery at the UL-Monroe 25 yard line.

To top it off, UL-Monroe also fumbled a kickoff return and the ball was scooped up by LSU’s Mike Brockers at the Monroe 25 yard line.

LSU won that game against Ole Miss, but failed to cover the 16 point spread in a 43-36 win.

LSU's offense finished last season ranked No. 89 in the country, but the defense was among the best in the land.

Except this year they are without Pat Peterson, likely the best player or at least the best cornerback and kick returner in the country last season.  The defense also lost a key lineman and linebacker, although just about every other starter is back on that side of the ball.


Can LSU maintain a top-five ranking without Peterson and an unproven offense?

Even without their first round draft pick, LSU’s defense, behind standout cover corners Morris Claiborne and Tyrann Mathieucan, is strong and can play with just about any team.

But how many times can this defense win the games?

Presently and after LSU's huge win over Oregon, the Tigers head to Mississippi State ranked ahead of Stanford and Boise.  Despite getting out gained by the Ducks, LSU won in the trenches by forcing four turnovers out of Oregon, which they converted into 20 points.

The suspension of Cliff Harris left Oregon without their star cornerback and fierce punt returner.

The absence proved costly.

Oregon's substitute punt returner coughed up a critical fumble that LSU turned right into a touchdown. The freshman cornerback starting in his place gave up a touchdown in the corner of the end zone, strategically targeted for a one-on-one matchup to expose the inexperienced backup.

Twelve Oregon penalties didn't help matters either.


Last season the Tigers won five games by a touchdown or less, but this season, without Pat Peterson, they will lose the close games.

Mississippi State, with 15 returning starters and  fresh off a destruction of Michigan in the bowl, was (-4) in turnover margin in the loss at LSU last season.

Don't expect that to happen again for this game as revenge is in order and Relf will be motivated to explode, especially after the goal line stand by Auburn.

Les Miles has done a fabulous job taking over for Nick Saban and the Tigers will still be a very good football team with a prized defense, but don't be surprised when they finish the regular season with four losses including West Virginia and/or Tennessee, Florida and Alabama.

And Mississippi State.

Take Mississippi State to cover 3.5 points


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