BATON ROUGE – A week after a gut-wrenching loss to ninth-ranked Georgia in a contest that turned into an offensive shootout, No. 10 LSU returns to action on Saturday night as the Tigers travel to face Mississippi State in a key Southeastern Conference Western Division matchup.
Despite the loss to Georgia, LSU still controls its fate in the SEC race however the Tigers have no margin for error if they expect to stay in the race for the division title. The next test for the Tigers comes against Mississippi State, a team that LSU has beat 13 consecutive times dating back to the 2000 season.
Kickoff between the Tigers and the Bulldogs is set for 6:06 p.m. CT and the game will be televised by ESPN with Joe Tessitore, Matt Millen and Maria Taylor on the call. The game will also be broadcast on the LSU Sports Radio Network and in the Geaux Zone on LSUsports.net with Jim Hawthorne, Gordy Rush and Bill Franques calling the action.
LSU brings a 4-1 overall mark and a 1-1 SEC record into the contest, while Mississippi State is 2-2 overall and 0-1 in conference play. LSU is coming off a 44-41 loss to Top 10 ranked Georgia last week in Athens, while Mississippi State had an open date. The Bulldogs beat Troy, 62-7, in their last outing two weeks ago.
“The week of practice went pretty well,” LSU coach Les Miles said. “I think our team understands that we have a real need to improve and we approached the practice week that way. I have been very pleased with how we responded and bounced back this week in practice. Now we have to carry that effort and intensity to the field on Saturday against a very good Mississippi State team.”
LSU GameDay Info
#10 LSU (4-1, 1-1 SEC)
Ticket Will Call for LSU fans opens at 4:15 p.m. CT at the ground level of the Leo Seal M-Club Building on the south end of Davis Wade Stadium.
Kickoff: 6:06 p.m. CDT
Driving Directions (Baton Rouge to Starkville, Miss. -- 303 mi.; 4h, 36m)
LSU goes into the Mississippi State contest with a 20-1 mark under Miles following a loss as the Tigers haven’t lost back-to-back games since the 2008 season. Miles is also 8-0 against Mississippi State, which includes a 4-0 mark in Starkville. LSU beat the Bulldogs, 19-6, in Starkville in 2011 on its way to a perfect 13-0 regular season.
“I think there’s a personal response that takes place when a group of men finish second in a contest,” Miles said of bouncing back after a loss. “I think everybody has a little need to play well and to perform for this team. We need to take this as an opportunity to bounce back. We are going to have to play well in all three phases of the game in order to have success.”
LSU goes into the Mississippi State game with one of the most explosive offenses in the league as the Tigers are averaging 42.8 points and 474.0 total yards per game (192.2 rushing, 281.8 passing). LSU has scored 30 or more points in its first five games for the first time in school history and the Tigers have gone over 400 yards of total offense in all five games, also a first at the school.
Last week, LSU racked up 41 points (the most ever in a regulation game loss for the Tigers) and 449 total yards in the loss to Georgia.
Zach Mettenberger is off to the best start for a quarterback in LSU history with 13 passing touchdowns and 1,398 yards in five games. Mettenberger, who threw for a career-best 372 yards on 23-of-37 passing last week against Georgia, is second in the SEC in both passing yards and TDs.
Mettenberger’s passing stats have been aided by the play of two of the best wide receivers in the country in Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. Landry, who is the first player in school history to have a receiving TD in the first five games of a season, has caught 34 passes for 520 yards and seven scores.
Beckham Jr., who is also one of the top all-purpose threats in college football, has 26 receptions for 507 yards and four scores. Beckham Jr. is second nationally in all-purpose yards with 215.8 yards a game and he’s averaging 21.2 yards every time he touches the ball.
When the Tigers aren’t throwing the ball, running back Jeremy Hill leads the rushing attack with an average of 109.2 yards per game. Hill has rushed for an SEC-leading seven touchdowns and he’s also emerged as a receiving threat, ranking third on the team with four catches for 44 yards.
“We are going to have to be more efficient in the running game,” Miles said. “We still need to make big plays in the passing game but I think in order to have success, we have to get the running game going.”
Defensively, LSU is allowing 24.4 points and 346.8 total yards (148.2 rushing, 198.6 passing) per game. The Tigers are led on defense by linebacker Lamin Barrow, who has 30 tackles to his credit. Linebacker D.J. Welter is second on the team with 26 tackles, while defensive end Jordan Allen leads the squad with two sacks.
Mississippi State goes into the game averaging 34.0 points and 463.8 total yards (206.2 rushing, 257.5 passing) per game. Mississippi State has scored a total of 113 points in its two wins (51 vs. Alcorn State, 62 vs. Troy) and combined for 23 points (3 vs. Oklahoma State, 20 vs. Auburn) in its two losses.
The Tiger defense will be faced with stopping a Mississippi State team that features a two-quarterback system in Tyler Russell and Dak Prescott. Prescott has played in all four games for the Bulldogs and has been responsible for nine touchdowns (5 rushing, 3 passing, and 1 receiving). Russell, who missed the past three games with a concussion, threw for 295 yards and a TD last year in a 37-17 loss to LSU in Tiger Stadium. Russell is expected to play on Saturday for the first time since the season-opener against Oklahoma State.
“Their two-quarterback system presents some real challenges for us,” Miles said. “We are going to have to find a way to slow down their quarterbacks. Both of those guys are very good at what they do. They have a lot of weapons on offense and a very good offensive line. We are going to have to find a way to pressure the quarterback.”