Mississippi State’s defense is heading to Baton Rouge with a wounded unit after giving up 438 yards on the ground to Georgia Tech last week in a 38-7 loss.
The Bulldogs (1-3, 0-1 SEC) will face a much different style of running game this week with No. 5 ranked LSU (3-0, 1-0 SEC) but the task of stopping the SEC’s leading rusher in Charles Scott will be a daunting task.
Scott leads a ground attack that averages 220 yards a game and he is responsible for 131 of those yards.
The junior running back is the first to tell you that his success is largely due to the men up front and he can’t say enough about the job his line has done in the first three games.
“I really can’t express how great they’ve been for us this year,” said Scott, who is seventh in the nation in rushing yards a contest. “We have a chemistry together and it seems like every play the timing is there and we’re all on the same page…..I can’t say enough of how good they’re playing but the scary thing is we can get a lot better.”
The matchup down in the trenches is one that worries Croom and the Bulldogs, who rank 11th in the conference, giving up 181 yards a game on the ground.
“I don’t know if anyone matches up with their offensive line and that’s my big concern going into this game,” Croom said. “This is a massive offensive line and we’re not near as big as those guys.”
The Bulldogs will look to try and use their speed at the linebacker position to neutralize LSU's advantage up front with the team’s leading tackler, Dominic Douglas (25), and KJ Wright, who is third on the squad (17).
“I think we run very well,” said Croom. “That’s our biggest strength but once again the massiveness of their offensive line…..And we have to be able to get off blocks and keep their tight end and fullback under control.”
The young signal caller threw for 186 yards in the second half with a pair of touchdowns and although no official word has come out of the LSU camp it is widely presumed that he will start in place of Andrew Hatch, who is recovering from a concussion he sustained last week.
“The thing you see with their quarterbacks is that they both run well and Lee really threw the ball well last week,” Croom said. “He looked composed out there in leading his team to victory and made some real big throws when his team needed him. I’m not sure which one will start but we’ll be ready for both of them.”
LSU is currently ranked sixth in the conference with 207 yards a game through the air and if there is a matchup that Croom felt good about then it had to be with his secondary lining up against LSU’s receivers.
The Bulldogs are yielding only 126 yards an outing, and the opposition has thrown for only two scores while completing less than 41 percent of its passes.
However, with his two starting safeties, Keith Fitzhugh (concussion) and Derek Pegues (ankle), dinged up it will not be the same unit that is fourth in the country and second in the league in pass defense.
Adding to the Bulldogs’ problems are the Tigers’ receivers.
LaFell has been steady in 2008 and leads the Tigers with 15 catches for 248 yards and three touchdowns, and Byrd is due for a breakout game after pulling in just eight passes for 100 yards and two scores.
While LSU's passing game has not been flashy or put up big numbers it has done enough to keep defenses honest and keep the head coach happy.
“When we run the ball and throw it with success it allows us to do a lot of things,” Miles said. “I like the way we’re moving the ball but we will need to be focused and ready to play on Saturday because Mississippi State has a formidable defense.”
And anyone worried about the Tigers not being ready to play can rest easy.
“We’ll be ready,” LaFell said. “It’s the SEC and anyone can beat anyone on any night. So, you know we’ll be ready.”