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LSU Tigers vs. Mississippi State Bulldogs: An SEC Football Preview

Updated: Sep 12, 2023


Fans Cheer at Davis Wade Stadium-Starkville, MS
"Mississippi-7638" by cj&erson is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0. via Flickr

The #14 LSU Tigers travel to Starkville, MS on Saturday to take on the Bulldogs of Mississippi State in the SEC opener for both teams. LSU holds a 77-36-3 advantage in the series that dates back to 1896. The Tigers have won the last two meetings against Mississippi State, including a 28-25 win in Starkville in 2021. The two teams have played each other every year since 1944.


In Death Valley on Saturday, LSU (1-1) hung 72 points on the Grambling Tigers and sent them back to North Louisiana with their tail between their legs and a bad case of cat scratch fever.


Mississippi State earned a hard-fought 31-24 overtime victory against Arizona on Saturday to get their second win of the season.


Broadcast Information

When: Saturday, September 16th

Where: Davis Wade Stadium, Starkville, MS

Time: 12:00 PM EST Kickoff

T.V.: ESPN


The Stakes

This is the beginning of SEC play and an opportunity for both teams to put a checkmark in the SEC West Division win column. The Bulldogs have only three wins over the Tigers since 2000, going just 3-20 over that stretch, with the last win over LSU coming in 2020 in Death Valley in the late Mike Leach’s first season in Starkvegas.


This is also an opportunity for LSU to turn the page in the playbook cut LB Harold Perkins loose and let him play fast sideline to sideline. Perkins has just six tackles, zero sacks, and zero tackles for loss going into Saturday’s matchup. Also, it’s a chance for Maason Smith to knock the rust off after sitting out a year with a knee injury.


Key Players-LSU Tigers

QB Jayden Daniels is 2nd in the SEC in passing at 307 yards per game for an offense that averages 540 yards per game. Daniels has passed for 615 yards, six TDs, and one INT in his two games so far. Interestingly, he has zero rushing touchdowns thus far in this young season.


CB Zy Alexander (a transfer from FCS school Southeastern Louisiana) leads the team in tackles through two games with 13. Not sure if it is a good thing that the third level of your defense leads the team in tackles.


RB Kaleb Jackson and Noah Cain each have two rushing touchdowns. WR Brian Thomas, Jr. is the leader this year in the wide receiver room (13 catches, 220 yards, three touchdowns).


Key Players-Mississippi State Bulldogs

QB Will Rogers threw the ball only 17 times vs. Arizona and completed 13 of those attempts for 162 yards and three TDs. That is the huge glaring difference between the Air Raid under Mike Leach and the offense employed under Zach Arnett. Rogers has passed for 389 yards and five touchdowns, and no INTs in two games this season. Last season in two games, Rogers passed for 763 yards and nine touchdowns.


RB Jo’Quavious Marks leads the SEC in rushing at 125 yards per game. Marks has rushed for 250 yards and three scores in the Bulldog's two games.


The Bulldog defense is led by linebackers Jett Johnson and Nathaniel Watson. Johnson has racked up 17 tackles, 2 INTs, three tackles for loss, two sacks, and two forced fumbles. Watson has recorded 18 tackles, two tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, two pass breakups, and one forced fumble. As a unit, the Bulldogs are second in the SEC in turnover margin at +5.


Analysis

For the Tigers to gain a victory:

· Ball security will be crucial. Turnovers are drive-killers, so LSU must hold on to the football and be methodical when moving the offense down the field against this opportunistic Mississippi State defense.

· LSU must be much more creative in their play-calling, utilizing speed in space to keep the defense off balance. Running up the gut on seemingly every play (please see the Florida State game) is not going to get it done.


· Improve their pass protection and give Daniels time to go through his progressions to find his receivers in space and gain positive yardage. LSU has given up five sacks in their two games this season.


For the Bulldogs to gain a victory:

· Mississippi State must be balanced on offense, mixing both the run and the pass, so as not to be too one-dimensional and to keep the LSU defense off balance.


Prediction

This game may be closer than people think. The Mississippi State defense is certainly not Grambling. But in the end, the Tigers will get the win.


Final Score: LSU 35 – Mississippi State 27





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