Almost exactly a full year to the day after Mississippi State stunned LSU, then the defending national champion, on the road, these two teams are set to meet again Saturday in Starkville, Mississippi. This time around, however, the Tigers already have a loss on their ledger and hope a revenge game vs. the Bulldogs can be a springboard back to national relevance.
Mississippi State will try to bounce back from a crushing -- and controversial -- 31-29 loss at Memphis last week. Mike Leach's team led 17-7 at halftime and nearly doubled Memphis in total yards, but a 94-yard punt return by the Tigers that featured two errors by the officiating crew helped seal Mississippi State's fate.
Just two weeks ago, though, the Bulldogs rode the momentum generated by a raucous home crowd at Davis-Wade Stadium to a quality 24-10 win over NC State in a night game. With a noon ET kickoff this time, Mississippi State needs its fans to be revved up by the presence of an SEC West rival to recreate that home-field advantage. LSU lost its first road game at UCLA in Week 1, but sophomore quarterback Max Johnson has turned in a pair of quality performances since then and looks ready for another test away from Tiger Stadium.
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LSU vs. Mississippi State: Need to know
A rock fight in the trenches: Don't expect much production on the ground from either side. Neither team has been able to run the ball effectively, but their respective run defenses have been excellent. The Tigers average right around 3 yards per rush, ranking 120th nationally. (For comparison's sake, LSU's 2019 national title team averaged 4.28 yards per carry.) Similarly, Mississippi State's 2.72 yards per rush ranks 125th nationally. However, LSU and Mississippi State have top-25 run defenses at 2.66 and 2.93 yards per carry allowed, respectively. To put it simply, both teams have work to do on the ground.
Defensive chess: Playing man coverage against Mississippi State last season spelled doom for LSU as Leach introduced himself to the SEC with a bang. Former Bulldogs' quarterback K.J. Costello threw for 623 yards, an SEC-record in the 44-34 victory, which exposed the cracks in defensive coordinator Bo Pelini's system. Pelini is out and Daronte Jones is in as DC, but the Tigers are still playing a lot of man coverage. Only 10 teams in the nation play man-to-man more frequently, according to TruMedia data. The Tigers are loaded with talent in their secondary, but they would be wise to drop eight men into zone coverage and force the Bulldogs to try and run the ball.
Star receivers on both sides: With both teams relying so heavily on the pass, it's no surprise that there are budding stars at receiver. LSU sophomore Kayshon Boutte leads the SEC with six receiving touchdowns. He's also tied for third with 20 receptions and ranks sixth with 223 yards receiving. Mississippi State's Makiai Polk is leads the league with 25 receptions and ranks fifth with 226 yards. Shutting these players down, or at least limiting their number of explosive plays, could make the difference.
How to watch LSU vs. Mississippi State live
Date: Saturday, September 25 | Time: 12 p.m. ET
Location: Davis-Wade Stadium -- Starkville, Mississippi
TV: ESPN | Live stream: fuboTV (Try for free)
LSU vs. Mississippi State prediction, picks
These teams bear some obvious similarities. Both are strong against the run while reliant on the pass offensively. LSU's athletes on offense are more explosive, but Mississippi State's defense has been the more physical of the two. Look for the Bulldogs' defense and home field advantage to make the difference. Prediction: Mississippi State (+3)
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