This week’s game: No. 22 MSU (7-2, 3-2 SEC) at No. 9 LSU (7-2, 3-2), Saturday, 6 p.m., ESPN
The Bulldogs are suddenly on a little losing skid, and their tall task is to stop it this weekend in Baton Rouge. MSU hasn’t won there since 1991, as I noted in today’s college football table-setter story. LSU simply doesn’t lose very often at Tiger Stadium, although it suffered a heartbreaking setback this past weekend. Gonna be some angry Tigers. Oh, and it’s homecoming for LSU this week, just like it was for Alabama when State visited there.
Be sure you also check out my Texas A&M-MSU rewind. And also be sure you’re following me on Twitter for updates from the Dan Mullen press conference this afternoon. Now, let’s take an early look at this week’s matchup.
• Last meeting: LSU, 19-6 (Sept. 15, 2011, in Starkville)
• Series: LSU leads 69-33-3
• LSU on the Web: lsutigers.net
• LSU coach: Les Miles (82-20, eighth year)
• Three LSU players to watch: QB Zach Mettenberger, DE Sam Montgomery, S Eric Reid
• Premature review: In our Premature Preview of LSU, I wrote about how the Tigers should again contend for the BCS title this year. And if not for a last-minute touchdown by Alabama, LSU would be right in the thick of it. Of course, at the time I wrote it, Tyrann Mathieu was still a part of the team. The defense has still been strong, but it always hurts to take a way a big-time playmaker like that.
There are other playmakers, of course, starting with Montgomery and fellow defensive end Barkevious Mingo. Those two have recorded a combined 14.5 tackles-for-loss and 8.0 sacks, and LSU as a team ranks ninth nationally in TFLs and 20th in sacks. The Tigers rank highly in several defensive categories: second in pass defense (150.3 ypg), 12th in rushing defense (102.8 ypg), third in total defense (253.1 ypg) and 10th in scoring defense (15.3 ppg).
Defense is what LSU is known for, what carried it to the BCS title game last year. Going into the season, it was expected that the offense would step it up a notch with Mettenberger taking over at quarterback. He’s had his struggles, completing 58.4 percent of his passes for 1,717 yards, eight touchdowns and four interceptions. But he had his best outing of the year against Alabama, completing 24 of 35 passes for 298 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions.
LSU racked up 435 total yards – that’s 153 more yards than the previous season high allowed by Bama. Jeremy Hill rushed for 107 yards, and the running game is something that’s been good all season for LSU, which is averaging 200.7 rushing yards per game. So, do the Tigers finally have a well-balanced offense? If so, that’s a scary thought for anyone left on their schedule. Considering MSU’s defensive struggles the last two weeks, it does not bode well for the Bulldogs.
Vegas sees a big win for LSU, making it an early 13.5- to 14-point favorite.