|Zach Mettenberger had another solid game to guide LSU to the win. (US Presswire)|
LSU WON. Mississippi State has proven somewhat comprehensively that its 7-0 start was a function more of its schedule than being a genuine SEC challenger, but still, the Bulldogs are good enough that a sleepwalk job from the Tigers on Saturday in the wake of their crushing loss to Alabama -- the kind, for instance, that Florida put on display against UL-Lafayette -- would have resulted in a dispiriting home loss. Instead, Zach Mettenberger built on his Alabama performance by going 19-of-30 for 273 yards and two touchdowns, the Tigers tailback-by-committee ground game pounded out 116 yards, and the LSU defense held the Bulldogs to 35 yards rushing. Result: a game that never felt that close even before J.C. Copeland's third-quarter touchdown put the Tigers up 30-17.
WHY LSU WON: Given LSU's strength in the running game, their stout defense, and the home-field advantage in Baton Rouge, it was always safe to assume the Tigers would come away with the win if Mettenberger played anything like the composed, accurate, strong-armed quarterback he was against Alabama. And though the Bulldogs secondary didn't live up to its reputation against Texas A&M the previous Saturday (Johnny Manziel and Co. having something to do with that, of course) it still shapes up as one of the SEC's better units. Mettenberger would have to be on his game to keep the LSU passing game humming.
He was. Helped by a clean pocket from an LSU offensive line that's continued to improve in pass protection, Mettenberger was accurate both in his throws downfield -- particularly in a fourth-quarter wheel route to Spencer Ware -- and underneath, where he found seven different receivers on the night. He didn't throw an interception. He finished averaging 8.2 yards a pass. He ran the offense the way LSU fans have wanted to see an LSU quarterback run it -- i.e., not just as a guy you hope doesn't screw things up, but who actually makes plays to make things better -- for years on end. Tyler Russell was solid, too -- 26-of-38 for five yards shy of 300 isn't bad at all --- but with Mettenberger playing the way he played, the Bulldogs needed much more than "solid" to earn a win in Death Valley.
WHEN LSU WON: Needing two touchdowns sandwiching a successful onside kick, Mississippi State faced long odds even if it had found the end zone on its final last-gasp possession with under 90 seconds to play. But Russell finding LSU safety Craig Loston instead for a 100-yard pick-six made things official.
WHAT LSU WON: Another notch on the belt on its way to another 10-win season and New Year's bowl. LSU wanted more than that, of course, but that doesn't mean the Tigers won't take it over the alternative.
WHAT MISSISSIPPI STATE LOST: A third consecutive SEC game -- a third consecutive not-entirely-competitive SEC game -- to pop the early season bubble even further. Wins over Arkansas and Ole Miss would still make this Dan Mullen's best season yet, but any aspirations toward anything bigger than that are gone.