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No. 3 LSU at No. 25 Mississippi State (+3)
Thursday, Sept. 15
8:00 pm ET
Well, my nice start to the Thursday night season certainly went south in a hurry. Honestly, I know some 8th grade teams down here in South Florida who I’m sure could defend as well as Arizona did last week against Oklahoma State. Granted, you have to give the Cowboys and their offense a good bit of credit but the Wildcats – particularly in the 1st half – offered little to no resistance. And here I thought Mike Stoops was a solid defensive coach. Oh well, let’s limp into Week 3…
Speaking of a lack of defense, I’m guessing we’ll see some this Thursday night when the Bayou Bengals of Louisiana State University – better known as the LSU Tigers – pay a visit to Starkville, Mississippi to play the Mississippi State Bulldogs. LSU opened the season by facing off against Oregon – a team which had averaged 47 points a game in 2010. All the Tigers did was stifle the Ducks, holding them to 13 points through the first three quarters en route to an impressive 40-27 win.
However, despite the impressive start for the LSU defense, all the talk around the Tigers continues to center on its offense. QB Jordan Jefferson is still suspended indefinitely for his role in a fight this past August and WR Russell Shepard will miss this game while serving the end of a suspension for an NCAA rules infraction.
All that drama hasn’t seemed to slow down Coach Les Miles and crew, in fact they appear to thrive in it. Of course, it helps to have a very capable backup QB when you have to suspend your starter indefinitely. And LSU has just that with senior Jarrett Lee. If that name sounds familiar it’s because Lee has been getting meaningful snaps – for a multitude of reasons – since he was a redshirt freshman in 2008. While Jefferson is unquestionably the better athlete and adds another dimension with his running ability, Lee is the better passer.
Combining Lee’s arm with RB's Michael Ford and Spencer Ware and the LSU offense, which returns 8 starters on offense looks awfully strong.
There was a time when Mississippi State was known for their defense. But if last Saturday is any indication – and it most certainly should be – then those days are long gone. Just a week after Auburn needed a five star magic act to escape their home opener against Utah State, the Bulldogs traveled to the Plains as almost a touchdown favorite. The thinking was pretty simple: Clearly Auburn is a shell of its former self and Coach Dan Mullen is ready to take Mississippi State to the next level.
And while Auburn may indeed be significantly worse than last year, they certainly didn’t miss a beat against Mississippi State as Mike Dyer rushed for 150 yards and two touchdowns and Barrett Trotter – attempting to fill Cam Newton’s huge shoes – threw for 146 yards and two more touchdowns as Auburn held off a late rally for the win.
The loss has many reevaluating Mississippi State and the performance of their defense can’t be a positive sign for Dan Mullen as he contemplates how to slow down LSU. The good news is with a pair of seniors - quarterback Chris Relf and running back Vick Ballard – the Bulldogs do have a pair of dangerous offensive weapons. Behind that duo, which includes nine returning starters on offense, Mississippi State has averaged 321 rushing yards per game this season, good for sixth in the nation.
However, it goes without saying that Mississippi State hasn’t lined up against a defense with the skills of LSU. And it can’t help that LSU recently prepared, and was obviously very prepared, for Oregon, a team with a spread offense featuring a mobile QB (Darron Thomas) and talented RB (LaMichael James) just like the Bulldogs will present.
A Thursday night deep in SEC country – the conference opener for both teams and home opener for Miss. St. – should present a rowdy scene in Starkville. Mullin will need everyone of those cowbells ringing in order to spur his team to a win.