(22) Mississippi State (7-2) at (9) LSU (7-2)
Saturday, Nov. 10, 7 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Nicholas DeLorenzo, Associate College Football Editor
GAME NOTES: The 22nd-ranked Mississippi State Bulldogs and the ninth-ranked LSU Tigers attempt to rebound from tough losses last week as the two meet in an SEC showdown on Saturday night in Baton Rouge.
Mississippi State could not have asked for a better start, winning its first seven games of the season for just the second time in school history. The team was able to take advantage of a soft schedule as it has beaten just one team that currently owns a winning record (Middle Tennessee). The Bulldogs were put to the test in the last two weeks against ranked opponents and failed on the road against Alabama (38-7), and at home versus Texas A&M (38-13).
"We as a team played very poorly today -- that's 100 percent my fault," head coach Dan Mullen said following the loss to Texas A&M. "That was as bad of a performance that I think we've had here in a long time."
"This week will be a big challenge going to play a night game down at LSU," he continued. "We're going to have to come out and play. This is even more so important here in Southeastern Conference play and out here in the West. You have to bring your 'A' game every single week."
With big preseason expectations, LSU did what it was supposed to do by winning its first six games, but since then it has faced four ranked foes in a row, winning against South Carolina (23-21) and Texas A&M (24-19), and losing to Florida (14-6) and Alabama (21-17). The Tigers appeared to be on their way to putting themselves back in the national championship picture last week when they were leading Crimson Tide late in the fourth quarter, but they coughed up the lead in the final two minutes to all but squander their hopes at an SEC Championship run.
"Our football team came in here to win," head coach Les Miles said after the crushing defeat. "We did not go timidly into the game. I felt that we played extremely hard. I was thrilled with how Zach Mettenberger played. (The) defense gave up two big drives. That is uncharacteristic of them...The good news is that we have a good football team. The good news is that we will fight again. They learned a tremendous lesson today: give everything you got. That is what they did."
LSU has had a firm handle on the storied rivalry between these two clubs, going 69-33-3. The Tigers have been especially dominant in recent years, winning the last 12 matchups.
Despite slipping up in its last two games, the Mississippi State offense (30.8 ppg) has been one of the best the school has ever seen. It has scored 27 points or more in seven games for just the third time in school history, and its 277 points through the first nine games is the most since the 2000 squad put up 307 points through nine contests.
Tyler Russell hasn't wowed anyone with his completion percentage (.593) or his passing yardage (217.1 ypg), but with 16 touchdown passes against only three interceptions, he is one of only seven quarterbacks in the nation with 15-plus TD passes with three or fewer picks.
After catching a touchdown pass against Texas A&M, Chad Bumphis (34 receptions, 536 yards, seven TDs) now has 19 career TD receptions, adding to his school record. The senior needs 27 receptions to tie the program record of 162 set by David Smith in 1970.
LaDarius Perkins has run into some trouble over the past two weeks, rushing the ball a combined 28 times against Alabama and Texas A&M for just 80 yards. Still, he's one of the SEC's best every-down backs with 908 total yards and eight touchdowns, including four 100-yard rushing games.
The story of the Bulldogs defense (19.7 ppg) has been their ability to take the ball away, as they have forced 21 turnovers and rank sixth in the nation with a plus-13 turnover margin.
With 45 tackles, four interceptions and a fumble recovery, Johnthan Banks is well on his way to another All-America selection. Darius Slay also has four interceptions, and Benardrick McKinney (73 tackles) and Cameron Lawrence (72 tackles, seven TFL, four sacks) have been tackling machines from the linebacker position.
The LSU offense (29.4 ppg) has found success with an outstanding rushing attack that puts up over 200 ypg, but the emergence of its junior quarterback last week against the most vaunted defense in the nation was a great sign.
Zach Mettenberger has struggled for the most part this season, completing fewer than 59 percent of his passes while throwing for a meager 190.8 ypg, but he had a career-day against Alabama, completing 24-of-35 passes for 298 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions. He now has eight touchdowns and four picks on the year.
The Tigers have a stable of running backs they can rely on, but lately it's been Jeremy Hill (429 yards, six TDs) who has been getting most of the work. With 107 yards last week, he became the first Tiger to rush for 100 yards in three straight games since 2008.
In the receiving game, Odell Beckham, Jr. (30 receptions, 493 yards, two TDs) has been Mettenberger's most trusted deep threat, while Jarvis Landry (292 yards) became the team leader in catches with 31 following an eight-reception performance last week.
LSU's defense (15.3 ppg) has been fantastic all season long, ranking third in the nation in allowing just 253.1 ypg. The unit played well again for most of the game against Alabama, but it couldn't come up with a stop when it needed it most in the final two minutes.
Kevin Minter is one of the best linebackers in the country, as he's putting together a career year with 82 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, three sacks, and an interception. Eric Reid, Jalen Mills, Tharold Simon and Ronald Martin all have two interceptions apiece, and as a team LSU is tied for 10th in the nation with 23 takeaways.
Mississippi State was a great early-season story, and its solid defense is sure to cause the Tigers some trouble, but the Bulldogs have proven over the past two weeks that they are not yet ready to take down the big boys in the SEC. After letting their home fans down last week, LSU will give them something to cheer about in this one.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: LSU 21, Mississippi State 10
11/07 10:36:20 ET