No. 6 LSU's begins its national title defense vs. Mississippi State on Saturday in Death Valley on the SEC on CBS Game of the Week. There are several new names for the Tigers to get acquainted with, including quarterback Myles Brennan and defensive coordinator Bo Pelini. When the two-deep depth chart came out this week, only five players combined on offense and defense were listed in bold as returning starters for coach Ed Orgeron. Simply put, this is a season of mystery for a program that has the raw talent to be at or near the top of the SEC every season.
Mississippi State went through an offseason of change. Coach Joe Moorhead was let go after the season finale and replaced by the always-entertaining Mike Leach. The man credited with the rise of the spread offense landed in Starkville, Mississippi, after a successful stint at Washington State from 2012-19. He brought a West Coast quarterback into the fray as well. Ex-Stanford starter KJ Costello will take the snaps for the new look, air-raid Bulldogs.
Who will leave Death Valley happy on Saturday afternoon? Let's break down the matchup and make picks straight up and against the spread.
LSU: Brennan threw for 353 yards and one touchdown last season as the backup to Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow and has never been a starter in Baton Rouge. He has hype though. Orgeron said this week that he has an even stronger arm than Burrow. Lip service? Maybe. But it still speaks to the confidence that Coach O has in his new signal-caller. Last season's offense wasn't predicated on the passing game, even though it got all of the publicity. Chris Curry, Tyrion Davis-Price and John Emery Jr. are all vying to fill the shoes of former star running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire. If this offense is going to click, it'll be on those guys to make it happen.
It seems like a medium-sized village of defensive players left the Tigers, but cornerback Derek Stingley, Jr. and safety JaCoby Stevens return to "DBU" to stabilize the back end. The mystery exists up front. Tyler Shelvin, the lone returning starter in the front seven, opted out shortly before the season began. That leaves Pelini and his new 4-3 defense in search of the next superstar.
Mississippi State: Leach and Costello have one of the best players in the country to rely on ... running back Kylin Hill. The senior passed on the NFL to come back to try to take his home-state Bulldogs back into contention. It'll be interesting to see how Leach uses him. He has already proven to be a top-tier power back. But Leach typically uses his running backs as receivers almost as much as running backs. Hill might have to do that even if he doesn't want to considering the Bulldogs lack experience outside.
Defensive lineman Kobe Jones and linebacker Erroll Thompson bring plenty of success to the unit that is being led by Zach Arnett. But what's the upside? That might hinge on safety Marcus Murphy, who will line up all over the field. If Arnett can keep opposing offensive coordinators guessing, the Bulldogs could evolve into one of the conference's top defenses.
Date: Saturday, Sept. 26 | Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
Location: Tiger Stadium -- Baton Rouge, Louisiana
TV: CBS | Live stream: CBSSports.com, CBS Sports App (Free)
OTT: CBS Sports App (Apple TV, Roku, Fire TV, Chromecast)
Game prediction, picks
This one won't be close. Leach's offensive system simply won't work in the SEC. The size and speed in the middle of LSU's defense -- even though most of the players are unproven -- will exploit a Mississippi State offensive line that put too much emphasis on spacing and speed rather than size and power. What's more, the passing game won't have a chance against Stingley, Stevens and the rest of that talented secondary. Take the Tigers and lay those points. Pick: LSU (-16.5)
Which college football picks can you make with confidence in Week 4? And which SEC favorite goes down hard? Visit SportsLine to see which teams win and cover in Week 4, all from a proven computer model that has returned over $3,800 in profit over the past four-plus seasons, and find out.