To get you ready for Saturday's matchup, TSD will preview Mississippi State's offense under coach Dan Mullen and coordinator Les Koenning. Below you'll find the projected starting lineup as well as a complete breakdown of what the Bulldogs will try to do offensively.
MISSISSIPPI STATE STARTING OFFENSE
QB: Tyler Russell (6-4, 220, Sr.) — OR — Dak Prescott (6-2, 230, So.)
RB: LaDarius Perkins (5-10, 195, Sr.)
TE: Malcolm Johnson (6-2, 235, Jr.)
WR: Joe Morrow (6-4, 210, So.)
WR: Jameon Lewis (5-9, 195, Jr.)
WR: Robert Johnson (6-1, 225, Jr.)
LT: Blaine Clausell (6-7, 310, Jr.)
LG: Gabe Jackson (6-4, 340, Sr.)
C: Dillon Day (6-4, 300, Jr.)
RG: Ben Beckwith (6-3, 305, Jr.)
RT: Charles Siddoway (6-7, 305, Sr.)
Notable Backups: RB Josh Robinson (5-9, 225, So.), WR Fred Ross (6-2, 205, Fr.) C Dylan Holley (6-3, 290, Sr.)
LSU has to prepare for another two-quarterback system as Mississippi State has vowed to play both Russell and Prescott on Saturday. Russell hasn't played since sustaining a concussion in the season opener, but he's since been cleared medically and Mullen named him the starter earlier this week.
That comes as a bit of a surprise considering Prescott has brought a different dimension to State's offense than it had with Russell at the helm. Prescott is certainly the more dynamic of the two, and proved to be a threat in the run game as well. Prescott leads the Bulldogs in rushing yards with 215, a 5.8 yards-per-attempt average. Factor in Prescott's 709 passing yards on 55.3 percent passing with three touchdowns and an interception, and he's filled in admirably while Russell regained his form.
Regardless of what State has drawn up, LSU must still prepare for both quarterbacks. While Prescott is more of a run-threat, Russell is the traditional pocket passer. He threw for 2,897 yards last season with 24 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He had a decent game against LSU in 2012, completing 26-of-38 passes for 295 yards with a TD and a pick.
Russell threw for 133 yards before coming out of the opener against Oklahoma State, a game the Bulldogs eventually lost 21-3. If it's Russell in the game for State, the play of the offensive line will be even more important considering he doesn't have the mobility to escape pressure that Prescott does. The Bulldogs surrendered four sacks in that game against OK State, a big reason why MSU struggled so much offensively.
The LSU defensive line, which failed to create any semblance of pressure last week against Georgia, will have to go up against a big MSU offensive line, with a pair of 6-foot-7 tackles and 340-pound guard Gabe Jackson, who was named the SEC OL of the Week for his performance two weeks ago against Troy. The State line has improved as the season's gone on, only surrendering two sacks in the three games since that OK State game. But a lot of that has to do with Prescott's versatility in the pocket. They'll face stiffer responsibilities in pass protection if it's Russell that sees more playing time.
I mentioned earlier that Prescott is State's leading rusher, which can either be seen as a credit to his talents or a lack of production from the Bulldog RBs. State's top three RBs have combined for 334 yards on 79 carries, a 4.2 yards-per-attempt average. The RBs don't seem to factor much into this offense, with backs only twice eclipsing the double digit carry mark in a game this season — Perkins' 16 carries against Oklahoma State and freshman Ashton Shumpert's 22 against Alcorn State.
That could change though with Russell back at QB. Unlike Prescott, Russell can't create that run-pass balance himself, so State may lean more on Perkins against the Tigers as they did against the Cowboys.
At WR, Mississippi State has had to call on a lot of new faces after losing all four of its top receivers from last season. The top returning pass catcher was TE Malcolm Johnson, who has seven receptions this year for 88 yards. Juniors Jameon Lewis and Robert Johnson seem to be handling the bulk of the load, reeling in 32 percent of catches this season. Lewis leads the team with 248 receiving yards and his two TD receptions are the only by a State WR this season.
What to expect from this Mississippi State will vary greatly depending on who sees more time at QB. Prescott has been the most productive member of State's offense, but it remains to be seen if the Bulldogs will continue to rely on him. Russell has the ability to test that LSU secondary, but will he have time to carve out holes in coverage? Does Mississippi State have a strong enough run game to keep the LSU defense honest? Those could be the biggest factors if it is in fact Russell that sees more reps on Saturday.
Who's the biggest threat: Russell of Prescott?