Mississippi State Prepares for LSU

The opportunities that present themselves for Mississippi State and Dan Mullen are numerous. A weekend tilt against LSU in Death Valley provides the Bulldogs a prime time national stage to prove just how far they have come. The Tigers came to Starkville a season ago in the first SEC home start of Dak Prescott's career, a game that got away from the Bulldogs late.

Over the course of the last decade, LSU has been a consistent winner and a regular contender for the SEC title under the direction of Coach Les Miles.

In 2013, the Bulldogs stood toe to toe with the Tigers for three quarters before seeing all that could go wrong do just that in the final stanza.

State fell behind in the second quarter 21-13 only to battle back and take a 23-21 lead, a margin that slipped away in the final seconds of the half.

The Bulldogs would score first in the second half to pull within a field goal and then enter the fourth period down just five before it all fell apart.

Four fourth quarter possessions yielded no points for the home team. Three of those series ended in turnovers, all leading to points for LSU.

Needless to say, the final score was not truly indicative of how the contest was most of the game, but when the final horn sounded it was Mississippi State's most lopsided loss on the 2013 campaign.

Bulldogs from the Boot

There are ten current Bulldogs who played their high school careers in Louisiana; safety Quadry Antoine (Belle Chase) defensive end Ryan Brown (Shaw), linebacker Kelan Chairs (St. Augustine) wide receiver Shelby Christy (Dutchtown), defensive end Torrey Dale (John Curtis), center Dillon Day (West Monroe), quarterback Dak Prescott (Haughton), running back Josh Robinson (Franklinton) and quarterback Damian Williams (Rummel).

Four of those ten are expected to start on Saturday night in Tiger Stadium. Day, Prescott and Robinson will be making their second appearance in Death Valley with Day making his third consecutive start against the Tigers.

Mississippi State has seen a tremendous amount of offensive production from their pair of runners from the Pelican State, Dak Prescott and Josh Robinson.

Of the Bulldogs' 781 yards rushing for the season, 561 one of them have come from Prescott and Robinson.

When asked about any added importance of playing against the home state Tigers, Prescott was quick to down play any personal attachment to the already important match-up.

"It's a big deal since we're from there," said Prescott. "You want to play well, but it's the first SEC game and that's really what makes it a big game."

Always a hill to climb

The in season talking points always seem to have an ebb and flow to them when it comes to Dan Mullen.

In his first two seasons, the talk centered around getting back to a bowl game and winning at Mississippi State.

With the Golden Egg taking up residence in Starkville, the talk shifted to beating other SEC western division teams not named Ole Miss.

After knocking off Arkansas and Auburn, the talk became about ranked opponents and taking the next step towards the top of the division.

The reason people talk about these things is quite simply, because they are true.

Critics point out that Mullen is 0-12 collectively against Alabama, LSU and Texas A&M.

Others counter with the thinking that Mullen has defeated every other SEC team he has played outside of that trio other than South Carolina.

Mullen has avoided the back breaking loss in the non-conference and has proven to have a better team more times than not against annual conference foes Kentucky (5-0) and Ole Miss (4-1).

Yes, Mississippi State is winning the games they are expected to win, but it is time to expect more.

A win this week would certainly quieten the critics, for at least a spell. Gone would be the talk of a losing streak to ranked opponents, SEC road woes and a string of losses to LSU that have at times been more than a little lopsided.

Running clock?

LSU has run the ball an SEC leading 157 times this season.

The second leading team?

Mississippi State with 146 rushing attempts.

Both teams like to grind it out on the ground, so we may see a quick game Saturday night.

LSU has ridden a quartet of talented backs to a 226 yards per game average, while State has rolled up 260 ground yards per game.

The Tigers have attempted just 59 passes in their three wins, which is one of the lowest totals in the league. Only Arkansas, Auburn and Georgia have put the ball in the air less than the Tigers.

It is clear that the gameplan early on, has been for the Tigers to win a war of attrition on the efforts of their talented backs, while the passing game develops.

Mississippi State currently ranks #11th nationally against the run allowing just 80 yards per game. The only SEC team to allow fewer rushing yards is Alabama who leads the country with just 47 yards per contest.

At some point, LSU is going to have to throw the football and show some real balance.

When Anthony Jennings has needed to make a play in the vertical passing game he has looked for #83 Travin Dural who is putting together an All-SEC type season.

Dural leads the Tigers with 12 catches for 370 yards and four touchdowns. Only three other wide receivers have a reception on the season.

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