LSU opens up SEC play against undefeated MSU

Kyle Riviere
kriviere@weeklycitizen.com
The LSU defense hasn't given up a point in 31 straight possessions. Photo by LSUsports.net.

LSU has been able to relax the last two weeks, but that aura or serenity and contentment is coming to an end on Saturday.

The Tigers will take on their biggest challenge since their opening-week thriller with Wisconsin as they open up their forever-brutal SEC schedule. To start things off, they'll welcome Mississippi State.

These are not the Bulldogs LSU has grown accustomed to bullying around every year. These Bulldogs are 3-0 and ranked just outside of the top 25.

Right now, Mississippi State's offense is hitting on all cylinders with Louisiana native Dak Prescott at quarterback.

Prescott entered the year as a dark horse Heisman candidate, and he has certainly justified those expectations so far through the first three games--throwing for 698 yards and nine scores while rushing for 273 yards and two touchdowns.

Prescott gave LSU fits last year as he shared time with Tyler Russell. While he was on the field, he threw for 106 yards while rushing for 103 yards and a score.

The Mississippi State offense rolled up 468 total yards and 26 points as they fought with the Tigers back and forth.

It was only a 31-26 game heading into the fourth quarter but there, Zach Mettenberger and the LSU offense exploded--leading to 28 unanswered points and an emphatic 59-26 win.

This year's Bulldog offense has put up gaudy numbers so far through three games--averaging 44 points and 526 yards per contest.

Josh Robinson has helped Prescott carry the load on the ground. He is averaging just under 100 yards per game.

The LSU defense will have to continue its stellar play. They're on a big-time roll right now. They haven't given up a point in nine straight quarters and 31 straight possessions.

Their 31-0 victory over UL Monroe was the first time they pitched back-to-back shutouts since 1985.

They held the Warhawks to just 93 total yards. Quarterback Pete Thomas completed 16 passes, but they only totaled 77 yards.

The Tigers' secondary has been playing like one of the best units in college football so far through three games. They're only yielding 90 passing yards per contest.

It's on offense where LSU will have to continue to improve. The Tiger attack looked sluggish for much of the win against ULM.

The rushing attack has been as good as expected--racking up 226 yards a game behind leading rusher Kenny Hilliard and true freshman Leonard Fournette.

Hilliard got off to the big start against Wisconsin--rushing for 110 yards, and Fournette has led all rushers the last two games--averaging 71 yards and a score in each contest.

The passing game will have to get more consistent against Mississippi State. The Bulldog defense is only giving up 12 points a game and on the ground, they only give up 80 yards per contest.

If LSU wants to consistently move the ball, they'll have to do damage through the air. As dominant as Mississippi State has been against the run, they've struggled against the pass--giving up 312 yards per game.

Anthony Jennings has played well in spots, but he's still only completing 52 percent of his passes.

Last week, against the Warhawks, the Tiger passing game could only muster 153 yards.

To keep the Bulldog rush defense honest, Jennings will have to make some big plays through the air. He certainly has the weapons to do it.

Travin Dural currently ranks second in the SEC in receiving yards with 370. Along with his four touchdowns, he carries a ridiculous yards per catch average of 31.

Along with Dural, true freshman receiver John Diarse has had a knack for getting open on big third downs.

One thing Jennings has been able to do very well through the first three games is protect the ball. He has only thrown one interception opposed to five touchdowns. He'll have to continue to minimize mistakes if the Tigers want to avoid the upset on Saturday night.

Hanging in the balance will be an 11-game home winning streak and a 15-game winning streak against Mississippi State. The last time the Bulldogs beat LSU was on Oct. 23, 1999.