LSU hoping missed opener won't haunt them against MSU
LSU is hoping a different kind of lightning strikes on Saturday.
After the Tigers had their opening game against McNeese State cancelled due to severe weather, they'll have to now go on the road to face Mississippi State in their SEC opener.
In addition to having the home-field advantage, the Bulldogs will also have an edge in preparation come Saturday.
Because college football teams do not play preseason games, the opening contest always serves an important function. It helps teams work out the kinks and get through the common early-season miscues and rust.
Mississippi State was able to do just that last weekend. The Bulldogs went on the road and beat Southern Miss, 34-16.
However, the Tigers didn't get their dress rehearsal. They were only able to get 10 plays in before lightning forced them to head for the locker room with just under 11 minutes remaining in the opening quarter.
There wasn't a lot to take away from the 10 plays.
On defense, LSU forced a quick three-and-out. Defensive back Rickey Jefferson had a sack on the short series.
Offensively, the Tigers only ran five plays.
Leonard Fournette had two carries for 10 yards, and even freshman cornerback Donte Jackson got a carry on an end-around.
LSU tried to get freshman running back Derrius Guice a touch, but he was tackled for a loss on a swing pass.
Brandon Harris' only throw downfield was an incompletion on a deep pass to Malachi Dupre that landed just out of his reach.
Regardless of the abbreviated sample, the Tigers will now have to go on the road to face a Bulldog squad that beat up on them for most of last year's contest.
After a furious 19-point rally by Harris, LSU cut the lead to 34-29 and came a failed Hail Mary away from winning.
In the loss, Mississippi State dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball.
They out-rushed LSU 302-89. Quarterback Dak Prescott rushed for 118 yards and a score while Josh Robinson thrashed the Tiger defense for 197 and a touchdown.
Overall, the Bulldogs rolled up 570 yards of total offense.
Things have changed since that meeting. Mississippi State has lost many of their starters from the 2014 squad--including Robinson. LSU's defense is much better than it was at the time of that matchup.
Two things still remain the same.
One: Prescott is still leading the Mississippi State offense. He embarrassed the Tiger defense last year. In addition to the 100-yard plus rushing performance, he went 15-24 for 268 yards and two scores through the air.
Two: there are still major questions surrounding the Tigers' quarterback situation.
In last year's matchup, Anthony Jennings struggled immensely. Harris was forced to enter the game in the fourth quarter.
He went 6-9 for 140 yards and two scores and nearly brought LSU back from a 34-10 deficit.
Two weeks later, Harris got his first start on the road against Auburn. It was a nightmare for the true freshman. He was overwhelmed in a disastrous 41-7 blowout loss.
After the defeat, Harris rode the bench for the remainder of the season.
He was named the starter heading into the 2015-16 season, and the opener against McNeese was vital in getting him some confidence after such a horrific first outing.
With the game getting cancelled, Harris will have to make his second start in another tough SEC environment with question marks still looming over him.
LSU will be looking to Fournette, Guice, Darrell Williams and freshman Nick Brossette to lead a productive ground game to keep the pressure off of Harris.
They'll have to produce much more than the 89 yards they mustered against the Bulldogs last year.
Mississippi State's run defense was stout in their opener. They held Southern Miss to just 2.8 yards per carry.
Defensively, LSU will still be without starting safety Jalen Mills--who injured his ankle during an offseason practice.