Mississippi State vs. LSU score: Bulldogs establish themselves as an SEC West threat

Who's Alabama's primary threat in the SEC West?

Texas A&M? Nah, not with those quarterback and coaching issues.

Auburn? Hard pass, considering the offensive line is a wreck and the Tigers struggled with Mercer.

LSU? Nope. Not after getting run out of Davis Wade Stadium by Mississippi State 37-7 Saturday night.

Dan Mullen's Bulldogs? You know, the ones who took Ed Orgeron's Tigers behind the woodshed Saturday night in Starkville?

Ding, ding, ding, we have a winner. 

This was no fluke from Mississippi State; it was a statement. The Bulldogs proved that they were significantly better in all three phases of the game, despite being outmatched by an LSU roster that is loaded with NFL talent. 

What Mississippi State lacks in raw talent, it more than makes up for in fit, scheme and ability to execute. 

It starts with quarterback Nick Fitzgerald, who should be near the top of all of the Heisman Trophy short lists heading into Week 4. The 6-foot-5, 230-pound junior threw for 180 yards and two touchdowns, rushed for 88 yards and two touchdowns and ran Mullen's offense to perfection against a defense that held opponents to just five points per game, 169.5 yards per game and 3.49 yards per play heading into the showdown.

Check out this 20-yard touchdown pass from Fitzgerald to Deddrick Thomas -- the seventh straight drive in which the Bulldogs scored. Fitzgerald sells the run, remains calm and hits Thomas for the score. 

Mullen and former quarterback Dak Prescott led Mississippi State to the No. 1 ranking in 2014 and to the Orange Bowl following the season. While Fitzgerald isn't quite on Prescott's level yet, his ability to make things happen on the ground and comfort level with Mullen's system makes him one of the most dangerous weapons in the SEC. Combine him with a suddenly potent Bulldog ground game -- Aeris Williams had 146 rushing yards against the Tigers -- and Mullen has successfully replicated the one-two punch he had with Prescott and Josh Robinson in the "good old days."

But the real difference is on defense, where Todd Grantham has transformed the Bulldogs from a punchline to a power.

After finishing 13th in the SEC at 6.24 yards per play a year ago, the Bulldogs held LSU to just 4.66 yards per play on Saturday, led the SEC at 2.74 coming into Saturday's action and have regained the hard-hitting "psycho-defense" identity that used to exist in the days of former coordinator Geoff Collins (now Temple's coach). 

They sacked Tiger quarterback Danny Etling twice, harassed him all night and held Heisman candidate Derrius Guice to just 76 rushing yards.

That's domination. Thorough domination.

Is Mississippi State a finished product yet?

Of course not. The road trip to Georgia next weekend will be the toughest test of the young season, and have to follow it up with a trip to play an Auburn team that -- while beatable -- is still dangerous.

But through three weeks, there's no doubt that Mississippi State has made the biggest statement of any SEC West team outside of Tuscaloosa. From quarterback, weapons, defense, scheme and fit, everything has fallen into place for Mullen's 2017 Bulldogs.

After making a statement on Saturday night against LSU, the next order of business will be to keep it going now that the eyeballs of the college football nation will be descending on Starkville.

College Football Writer

Barrett Sallee has been a member of the sports media in various aspects since 2001. He is currently a college football writer for CBS Sports, while also hosting on ESPNU on SiriusXM Radio channel 84, the... Full Bio

Show Comments Hide Comments
Our Latest Stories