Dig Baton Rouge

Gameday Preview: LSU vs. Mississippi State

By Casey Gisclair
@Casey_Gisclair

Chance of rain? Of course, it’s never. Chance of lightning? Bleh, it’s better than Tigers fans think.

LSU’s season opener against McNeese State getting rained out was an awful start to the season. It was like having the worst case of cotton mouth ever and then grabbing an ice cold soft drink, only to have it explode all over your face when you open it.

When it was all done, fans in attendance were all wet (just like what would happen with the soft drink explosion), upset as can be, and were still longing to see the Tigers in action.

From a football standpoint, Mother Nature delaying LSU’s season opener deprived the Tigers of valuable reps the team needed before facing a Southeastern Conference foe.

Those reps surely would have come in handy before traveling to Starkville to take on Mississippi State this weekend.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IQAuT2QC7oc

LSU Offense vs. Mississippi State Defense

LSU ran only a couple of offensive plays in Saturday’s washout – securing one first down and then being forced to punt, but it was pretty apparent the Tigers have some tricks up their purple and gold sleeves. In LSU’s lone drive, the Tigers showed a more wide-open offense, utilizing more spread sets than the team ever has in the past.

LSU ran a jet sweep to true freshman Donte Jackson and threw a swing pass out of a two-halfback set – new wrinkles from what we’ve seen in the past decade of the Les Miles era.

On the opposite side, Mississippi State’s defense struggled mightily on Saturday against Southern Miss, surrendering 413 total yards and 20 first downs. The Bulldogs didn’t look like they enjoyed tackling very much on Saturday, surrendering far too many big plays after first contact.

That’s not a good recipe against LSU, because you know who loves running after first contact? LSU sophomore running back Leonard Fournette does. Even if quarterback Brandon Harris isn’t at his best, the Tigers should be able to overpower an inexperienced Bulldogs front and have success.

Advantage: LSU

LSU Defense vs. Mississippi State Offense

Mississippi State senior quarterback Dak Prescott is a good one. There’s no question about it, but the Bulldogs don’t have nearly enough of the complimentary toys in their offensive chest to help Prescott this fall, which – at least so far – has watered down Dan Mullen’s play calling.

Against Southern Miss, Prescott was both the Bulldogs’ leading passer and rusher, and no Mississippi State ball carrier got more than eight reps. Sure, Brandon Holloway and Ashton Shumpert did looked OK, but those guys aren’t Josh Robinson-good.

If the Bulldogs will have success, it will be on Prescott’s back, and that’s a lot to ask of any college quarterback in the SEC. In the other locker room, the LSU defense looked in midseason form in the three plays we saw on Saturday night, showcasing power, incredible east-west speed, and playmaking ability throughout the starting unit.

The LSU front-four looked possessed on Saturday – a byproduct of first year defensive line coach Ed Orgeron’s tutelage throughout the summer. With those guys going up against an inexperienced Mississippi State offensive line that was gashed by graduation last season, LSU might be able to score hits on Prescott – early and often.

When looking in the trenches, pay attention to the pressure that the Tigers are getting right up the middle. Mississippi State center Jamaal Clayborn will be making his second-career start and junior right guard Devon Desper is a new starter, as well. Those guys will match up against dynamic LSU defensive tackles Davon Godchaux and Christian LaCouture.

Advantage: LSU

SPECIAL TEAMS

Donte Jackson returning kicks is a good look for LSU. If Jackson gets into open space, look out – it’s instant offense for a team who desperately needs it. But Mississippi State isn’t too shabby in its return units, either.

Specialist Brandon Holloway took a kick 100 yards to the house against Southern Miss to tilt the game’s momentum early on. The Bulldogs also feature kicker Westin Graves, who looked good in his first-career start, smashing home two-of-two field goals, including one from 38-yards.

Tiger fans do not yet know much about LSU’s kicking situation other than the fact senior punter Jamie Keehn has a heck of a leg.

My goodness, that was a nice boot against McNeese. It hung in the sky and made it rain … literally! Shame on you for that, Jamie. Shame, shame, shame!

Advantage: Mississippi State

PREDICTION

Alabama head coach Nick Saban always says the most improvement a team makes is from week one to week two. With that being said, Mississippi State has a huge advantage over LSU in that they’ll have all of their first-game jitters out of their system when Saturday’s game kicks off.

However, these Bulldogs lack the experience from the 2014 squad, and Mississippi State isn’t yet a program that recruits well enough to reload like other teams in the SEC.

The Bulldogs left a lot to be desired on opening night. LSU may start sluggish, but the Tigers will take control of the trenches late and score both a thorough victory, and also a win that is never lopsided enough on the scoreboard for fans to be able to exhale until the final minutes.

LSU 27, Mississippi State 13

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