LSU's new season opener is also the SEC opener as the Tigers travel to Starkville this weekend to face Mississippi State.
The Tigers will have revenge in mind after State totaled 570 yards of offense against them last season in Tiger Stadium, coming away with a 34-29 victory that wasn't as close as the score suggests. Most of that production came from Dak Prescott, who's back to lead this offense, but most of his supporting cast is gone. The Bulldogs have lost seven offensive starters from the LSU game a year ago.
Mississippi State did get off to a positive start last week, beating Southern Miss, 34-16, but the Golden Eagles kept it close for the first half, only trailing by four after two quarters.
Mississippi State racked up 442 yards of offense against Southern Miss last week, but the Bulldogs only ran 66 plays thanks to a pair of lost fumbles. They did show balance, with 205 yards on the ground and 237 through the air.
Below we'll provide the scouting report on this year's Mississippi State offense, including a look at the projected starters:
MISSISSIPPI STATE STARTING OFFENSE
QB: Dak Prescott (Sr., 6-2, 230)
RB: Ashton Shumpert (Jr., 6-2, 218)
WR: De'Runnya Wilson (Jr., 6-5, 215)
WR: Fred Brown (Jr., 6-1, 196)
WR: Fred Ross (Jr., 6-2, 207)
TE: Gus Walley (Jr., 6-4, 242)
LT: Rufus Warren (Sr., 6-7, 299)
LG: Justin Malone (Sr., 6-7, 320)
C: Jamaal Clayborn (Jr., 6-4, 315)
RG: Devon Desper (Jr., 6-4, 305)
RT: Justin Senior (Jr., 6-5, 295)
Notable Backups: RB Brandon Holloway (Jr., 5-8, 165), TE Justin Johnson (Fr., 6-3, 229), WR Joe Morrow (Sr., 6-4, 202), WR Gabe Myles (So., 6-0, 192), WR Donald Gray (So., 6-0, 192)
The Mississippi State offense begins and ends with Dak Prescott. The Bulldogs' best chance at a Heisman ran all over LSU a season ago. He picked up 105 yards on the ground, including a 56-yard touchdown that featured a mean stiff-arm on LSU's Jalen Mills. He also did work in the passing attack, throwing for 268 yards and a pair of touchdowns, including a 74-yarder that put State up two scores in the third quarter.
LSU's determiend to not let that happen again. The Tigers stressed the improtance of tackling this week, which sounds easy in theory but is far from in reality. LSU linebacker Kendell Beckwith likened tackling Prescott to loading up on a fullback. That'll require swarm tackling and it'll likely take more than one to get him down when he escapes past the line of scrimmage.
Prescott had a solid debut last week against Southern Miss. He completed 22-of-38 passes for 237 yards and two touchdowns. He also picked up 72 rushing yards on 8 attempts.
RELATED STORY: Communication key to stopping Dak Prescott
Gone from the State offense is Josh Robinson, a Louisiana native that racked up 197 rushing yards against LSU last year. The Bulldogs don't have the same bellcow they did a year ago, but they'll rely most on junior Ashton Shumpert. The 218-pounder won't shy from contact either. State will bring in 5-foot-8 Brandon Holloway as a change-of-pace, and they have a pair of talented redshirt freshmen in Dontavian Lee and Aeris Williams to round out the running back stable.
LSU fans will remember wide receiver De'Runnya Wilson. He's had a combined six catches for 171 yards and two touchdowns the last two times these teams have met. He's State's No. 1 pass catcher this season, but the Bulldogs believe this to be their deepest and most-talented group of wide receivers in quite some time.
Fred Brown will occupy the Z, while 6-foot-2 Fred Ross plays the slot. State will try to get Ross lined up against the safeties and take advantage of the height mismatch. State will also rotate in the second-teamers Joe Morrow, Gabe Myles and Donald Gray as needed.
State will regularly get the tight ends involved in the passing game. Junior Gus Walley is the starter and freshman Justin Johnson will also play regularly. Those two combined for five catches and two touchdowns last week against Southern Miss. Johnson was actually recruited as a receiver but kept growing, so State will utilize his athleticism and size in the passing game.
State has three new faces along the offensive line.
Returning is right tackle Justin Senior. He's considered the best linemen of the bunch and is possibly a left tackle in the future. State even believes he could be a candidate to depart early for the NFL. Next to him is right guard Devon Desper, and the Bulldogs ran frequently behind those two last week.
At left tackle is a converted tight end in Rufus Warren. Next to him is Justin Malone, a three-year starter that's made the move from right guard to the left. State had to replace four-year starter Dillon Day at center. Jamaal Clayborn now occupies that spot after transitioning from guard. His first collegiate snap came last week, so his inexperience is still a concern along State's offensive line.