By Andrew Alexander
Cowbell week is here Tiger fans! After posting consecutive shutouts in Tiger Stadium for the first time since 1941, LSU opens conference play this Saturday against Mississippi State.
The Bulldogs bring an unblemished, and untested, 3-0 record into Death Valley this weekend for the 108th meeting against the Tigers. Saturday’s game marks the first time since 1919 that both LSU and MSU head into the matchup with perfect records three games into the schedule.
Dating back to LSU’s 52-0 win in 1896, the Bulldogs and Tigers have a long, one-sided history. LSU has more wins over Mississippi State than any other school in the Southeastern Conference, and the Tigers have played the Bulldogs more than any team in the league.
LSU has beaten Mississippi State by a double-digit margin in seven of nine games during the Les Miles era. However, Miles recognizes that none of those numbers matter right now.
“These are tremendously important games,” he said. “Frankly, we’ll have to play best and play better.”
LSU Offense vs. Mississippi State Defense
Through three games, the Tigers offense has been resilient at times and dominating at others, but has shown a knack for wearing opponents down, continuing to score late in ball games. The quarterback derby seems to have been all but won by sophomore Anthony Jennings, who leads the nation in passing yards per completion with 20.96. Jennings is 27-of-52 with 566 yards and five touchdowns. More importantly, Jennings has already shown an aptitude for overcoming adverse situations in his young career, as evidenced in the season opening comeback victory versus Wisconsin. LSU’s stable of running backs has consistently improved through three games. Led by senior Kenny Hilliard’s 215 yards and three touchdowns, the Tiger rushing attack has recorded 557 yards and eight touchdowns through three games. At first glance the Bulldog secondary seems to be a glaring weak point, allowing over 311 passing yards per game and giving up a whopping 435 passing yards to lowly UAB two weeks ago. LSU offensive coordinator Cam Cameron must be licking his chops at the chance to unleash Dural on a suspect Bulldog secondary.
LSU Defense vs. Mississippi State Offense
Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott has accounted for 993 yards through the ground and air this season. Prescott, a Louisiana native, has completed 59.7 percent of his passes for 696 yards and nine touchdowns. He is also the team’s second leading rusher with 273 yards and two scores.
Speaking of rushing, the Bulldogs love to run the football, pounding the rock 146 times for 781 yards this season. Josh Robinson is their leading rusher with 288 yards, three touchdowns and an impressive 6.3 yards per carry. Receivers Jameon Lewis and Fred Brown lead the Bulldogs with 107 and 104 yards respectively, while the six-foot-five De’Runnya Wilson has hauled in three touchdowns. Through three games LSU ranks first in the SEC and third nationally in passing yardage allowed at 94.3 yards per game. In addition, the Tigers are allowing only 205.7 yards per game and 8 points per game.
LSU sophomore place kicker Colby Delahoussaye is money. The New Iberia native is 3-for-3 on field goals and 12-of-13 on PAT’s. One area of concern for Tiger fans should be the punt return game. Cornerback Tre’Davious White has yet to show the explosive, playmaking ability of past Tiger return men. White feels like a costly, muffed punt waiting to happen, not because of lack of skill, but because fatigue effects concentration, a vital component in the return game, and everyone gets tired eventually. Mississippi State freshman kicker Westin Graves missed the Bulldogs only field goal attempt of the season. Graves and sophomore Evan Sobiesk have each missed a PAT, but are 75 and 93.5 percent on the year respectively. But a raucous Tiger Stadium is the last place Coach Dan Mullen wants to break in an inexperienced kicking game.
This is more than likely the most talented Mississippi State team that LSU will face since Miles took the reigns in 2005. The unpredictability of Prescott in the spread offense will be a real test for a defense that has had it pretty easy in the first three games. He will undoubtedly be excited to play in his home state this weekend, but that delight could fade rather quickly if LSU’s defense continues to impose its will on the opposition. There are three things Tiger fans can count on in life with absolute certainty: death, taxes and beating Mississippi State.
LSU 38, Mississippi State 17
#8 LSU Tigers (3-0) vs. Mississippi State Bulldogs (3-0)
Tiger Stadium (102,321); Baton Rouge, LA
Saturday, Sept. 20; 6 p.m.
TV: ESPN; Radio: 98.1 FM