Mississippi State thrilled its fans for the first three quarters of play Saturday night only to see the magic wear off against LSU late in the game. Now Mississippi State prepares for Bowling Green and will have to wait until next year to try to get their first win against LSU since 1999.
The Good: For three quarters, Mississippi State stood up to the challenge of playing the No. 10 team in the country. Even with potential distractions such as all of the shenanigans as to whom would start at the quarterback position and the rotation of the quarterbacks, the Bulldogs moved the ball consistently on offense. Both Tyler Russell and Dak Prescott looked capable of running the offense.
While the defense did not look superior, the squad held their own through three quarters against on of the nation's top offenses. With Zach Mettenberger, Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry looking NFL ready, the Bulldogs knew they would be challenged to slow the Tigers on offense. That does not even count Jeremy Hill in the mix, and still, Mississippi State did enough defensively to keep the game close through three quarters.
The Bad: Over the course of a football game, there are a few pivotal moments where a team must make a play in order to find success. Great teams make these plays more often than not. Good teams make them on occasion, and Mississippi State showed that on these plays, the Bulldogs are not quite at that next level.
Three such moments occurred in Saturday night's loss to LSU. The first came on the series following Nickoe Whitley's interception of Mettenberger. With the Bulldogs only trailing 21-16, this was a chance for Mississippi State to really seize the momentum of the football game. Instead, the Bulldogs gained one yard on the next drive and had to punt.
To their credit, the Mississippi State defense followed by forcing a three and out, and the Bulldogs did score on their next possession to take a 23-21 lead.
The second such moment occurred at the end of the first half. The Bulldog defense followed up the Mississippi State touchdown with another defensive stop, giving Mississippi State the ball with 3:44 left in the first half at their own 20 yard line. In that situation, the Bulldogs have to at least run out the half, even if they do not put points on the board. Instead, on a third down pass, Russell and Jameon Lewis had some miscommunication resulting in an incomplete pass. The Bulldogs had to punt to LSU, and the Tigers scored to take a 28-23 lead into the half.
The final such moment came late in the third quarter when Mississippi State had a chance to make a 42-yard field goal to cut the LSU lead to 31-29. Instead, the ball sailed wide right, and most Mississippi State fans probably got the feeling that something ugly was about to happen.
The Ugly: The fourth quarter performance turned in by Mississippi State was atrocious. While it was great to see the Bulldogs play so well through three quarters, a bit of that good feeling was negated by they terrible fourth quarter.
Headed into that quarter, LSU led 31-26, and Mississippi State still had a puncher's chance. Less than one minute into the quarter, LSU led 45-26 and the game was all but over.
There is no way to sugarcoat it; the Bulldogs were embarrassed in the fourth quarter. Whether it was because of fatigue, let down, or frustration, the Bulldogs allowed LSU to do whatever they wanted in the fourth quarter.
It is nice to hang with top teams through three quarters, and it makes for lovely drama when it is Akron trying to upset Michigan in the Big House. However, when it is one SEC program trying to take the next step by beating a top program, the result is just frustrating.
No. 1 Alabama 45, Georgia State 3: The Panthers got a nice paycheck, and everyone got to play as Alabama cruised along in Tuscaloosa.
No. 6 Georgia 34, Tennessee 31 (OT): Aaron Murray proved again that he can be the man in tough situations as he led a depleted Bulldog squad to victory.
No. 17 Florida 30, Arkansas 10: The Gators looked to have found life again on offense, and the Hogs look like they still have a long way to go.
Auburn 30, No. 24 Ole Miss 22: The Rebels went 0 for Alabama as they lost at Auburn. The Tigers now look like a serious bowl game contender.
Missouri 51, Vanderbilt 28: The Tigers look better as they enter their second year of SEC play. No one expected the pasting the Commodores took at the hands of Missouri.
No. 14 South Carolina 35, Kentucky 28: The Wildcats scored 21 fourth quarter points, but it was not enough to defeat the Gamecocks.
Handing out Hardware:
SEC Offensive Player of the Week: Zach Mettenberger, QB, LSU: Mettenberger helped himself make more money in the NFL with his 25 for 29, 340 yard and 2 TD performance against Mississippi State. Time and time again, when it looked like Mississippi State had LSU stopped, Mettenberger found an answer for the Tigers.
SEC Defensive Player of the Week: Loucheiz Purifoy, DB, Florida: Purifoy snagged an interception and returned it for a touchdown in the second quarter to put Florida ahead 10-7. Purifoy also had a sack and a forced fumble in the first quarter, and he was part of a secondary that held Arkansas to just four yards per pass on 41 attempts.
The Tweet that Won Twitter This Week: It is not really a tweet, but Brent Musberger killed it at the end of the Ohio State-Northwestern game.
SEC Power Rankings
1. Alabama: The Tide will be at the top until someone knocks them from their perch.
2. Georgia: The Bulldogs stay ahead of LSU this week, but will the injury bug prove to be too much in Athens.
3. LSU: If the Tigers were marginally better on defense, this time might be unstoppable.
4. Texas A&M: It is hard to believe that as good as the Aggies are, they might only be the third best team in the West.
5. Florida: The Gators look like they have found some playmakers on offense. That should make their matchup with LSU very interesting.
6. South Carolina: One has to wonder if the Clowney-Spurrier feud will prove to be the unraveling force on this season for the Gamecocks.
7. Missouri: This feels a little high for the Tigers, but they are holding their own so far in 2013.
8. Auburn: Auburn might be the surprise team of 2013. No one really knew what to expect, but the Tigers are making a case as the fourth team in the West.
9. Ole Miss: The Rebels have suffered a shutout in Tuscaloosa and a close loss in Auburn. It will be interesting to see how Ole Miss responds.
10. Vanderbilt: The Commodores look like they might be sinking back to the bottom half of the East.
11. Mississippi State: The Bulldogs showed that they have the talent to compete, at least for a while, with the big boys, but still have a way to go to contend for an SEC West crown.
12. Tennessee: The Volunteers nearly pulled off the upset against Georgia, but they could not snag the opportunity.
13. Arkansas: It is going to be a long year in Fayetteville.
14. Kentucky: It will be an even longer year in Lexington.
Five Things I Thought About This Weekend:
1. What a story it would be if the Pittsburgh Pirates made it to the NLCS. They have not won a playoff series in my lifetime. I did not get a chance to look it up, but not too many teams could have a longer drought without winning a postseason series.
2. I know most of the folks on the Gulf Coast will agree with this one. I was quite glad to see most of the predictions on Tropical Storm Karen prove wrong with the storm fizzling out over the Gulf.
3. Is there a more snakebit quarterback in the NFL than Tony Romo?
4. Southern Miss....I do not even know what to say to you right now.
5. Hey, the Steelers didn't lose this week.