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Game Preview: LSU vs. Mississippi State

Tiger Blitz breaks down No. 20 LSU's matchup against Mississippi State on Saturday. Who's trending? Where to watch? Matchups to watch? All the details inside in Christian's game preview.

When: Saturday, Sept. 17 at 6 p.m. CT
Where: Tiger Stadium (Baton Rouge, LA)
TV/Radio: ESPN2/LSU Sports Radio Network 98.1 FM in Baton Rouge
Series: 
LSU leads, 72-34-3
Last Meeting: LSU won 21-19Line: LSU -13.5
Over/Under: 45

TIGER TRENDS

While Week 1 may have been a bust offensively, Week 2 against Jacksonville State sparked hope for Tiger fans.

Why?

Danny Etling.

Etling relieved junior quarterback Brandon Harris in the second quarter of LSU's 34-13 win against Jacksonville State. LSU coach Les Miles has suggested Etling will start again as Harris is bumped to the No. 2 spot. If Etling is to start, he will be the 13th Tiger quarterback to start in Tiger Stadium in program history. Behind Etling under center, LSU expects Leonard Fournette to return this week. Fournette missed last week with a lower leg injury against Jacksonville State, but is nearing in on 100 percent, Miles said on Wednesday. If Fournette isn't able to go, sophomore Derrius Guice will resume his starting role from last week.

Also trending: Tre'Davious White.

White, a non-offensive player, has scored in both games this season. He is also one punt return touchdown away from tying LSU's record for punt return touchdowns in program history.

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SCOUTING MISSISSIPPI STATE

Nick Fitzgerald is not Dak Prescott. But, yes, he has many similar attributes.

Fitzgerald amassed 373 total yards of offense against South Carolina last week. Fitzgerald also leads the run-pass option, critical to Dan Mullen's offense, for Mississippi State. If Fitzgerald throws, it's likely going to Fred Ross. Ross reeled in nine catches in last season's 34-29 win against LSU.

Let's flip to the Bulldogs' defense.

Les Miles says Bulldog defensive end A.J. Jefferson is an All-American. Jefferson has added three sacks for their defense this season. Behind Jefferson is a linebacker Richie Brown, who leads the team with 16 tackles this season.

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MATCHUP TO WATCH

LSU's defensive line and linebackers against Mississippi State's run-pass option: The Tigers' front seven was troubled by Jacksonville State's option last week. 

"All eyes," middle linebacker Kendell Beckwith said of the defensive lapses.

Mississippi State's offense is known to eat away at LSU's front seven, most of which has been credited to Dak Prescott. But, Fitzgerald can run, too. 

The Tigers have mixed up nose tackles throughout their first two games among Greg Gilmore, Travonte Valentine and Ed Alexander. Expect LSU to do more of the same. Keeping bodies fresh against the up-tempo, deceitful run-pass option may be LSU's saving grace against the Bulldogs.

Billy Embody - SCOUT

KEYS TO THE GAME

LSU: Can LSU's defense contain Mississippi State's high-powered run/pass offense and option? If LSU's front seven can can contain Bulldog tailback Brandon Holloway and Fitzgerald and the Tigers' defensive backs can establish control on the outside, LSU shouldn't have too much of a tough night defensively.

Miss. State: Can the Bulldogs stop the combo of Fournette and Etling against LSU's grizzled offense line. Playing against the Tigers' play action may be difficult, especially with Fournette returning from injury.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

When LSU is on offense: Danny Etling and LSU's receiving corp. Will Etling, who's entering his second season at LSU, have an established connection between he and the Tigers' pass catchers? Etling targeted LSU's tight ends frequently last weekend, while lead receiver Malachi Dupre continued to struggle and did not catch a pass.

While LSU in on defense: Will LSU's "eyes" deceive it again against the run-pass option. How will LSU's deep defensive back crew handle the option, especially against the pass? Will they react too quickly and be beaten on routes? We'll see.

While Mississippi State is on defense: Containing Danny Etling, Leonard Fournette and LSU's receivers may be tough, but the best way to rattle the Tigers will be quarterback pressure. Etling has a calming presence in the pocket. But, a little disruption in the backfield may make LSU's offense too rushed and thus ineffective.

While Mississippi State is on offense: LSU knows Fitzgerald can run. How much will he run? How much will he pass? If the Bulldogs can catch the Tigers off guard on one big play, LSU may be playing from behind for most of the game. LSU has depth on defense, but can the depth be prepared enough to keep up with Mississippi State's offense.

TIGER BLITZ STAFF PREDICTIONS

Christian: LSU 28-21

Fournette, by himself, (if he's 100 percent healthy) may be too much for Mississippi State. And added, if Etling is simply efficient at quarterback, LSU's offense will be too much. 

I think LSU had solid practice last week against the run-pass option with Jacksonville State's Eli Jenkins and Roc Thomas. Mississippi State shouldn't be too much different, but the Bulldogs know that and will mix it up.

I expect Mississippi State to get a big play, possibly two. Who knows how/if LSU can play from behind with its expected new faces on offense.

It'll be closer than many think and may be decided late in the fourth quarter.

LSU wins it.

Billy: LSU 27-17

I’ve gone back and forth on how close this one will be as I do think the Tigers get the win, but as this one goes along, LSU takes a lot of what the team has been dealing with out on the Bulldogs.

LSU’s quick passing game with Etling under center and using the screen game will be able to minimize the effect of A.J. Jefferson on the opposite side of the ball. Mississippi State is still relatively inexperienced and this certainly isn’t the the team that beat LSU in Tiger Stadium last time.

I like Malachi Dupre to catch a touchdown and Tre’Davious White will grab an interception, but his touchdown streak will end. LSU gets the win in a game that takes the Tigers longer to put away than the final score will indicate. 

Josh: LSU 28-17

The last time Mississippi State came to Tiger Stadium, it wasn’t pretty.

But now, Dak Prescott is gone and now Nick Fitzgerald is the new guy on the block. Fitzgerald could have a big day, after the Tigers struggled to stop Jacksonville State’s Eli Jenkins, who runs the read option just like Mississippi State.

The Bulldogs aren’t nearly as talented as they were two years ago, but their front seven is still strong.  A.J. Jefferson is going to be tough for Ethan Pocic and Will Clapp to consistently block, but with Danny Etling under center, LSU’s offense has some what of a passing threat. 

This game will be much closer than what Vegas thinks, but a healthy Leonard Fournette should run for 100 yards and lead the Tigers to a win.


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