Death Valley: where dreams go to die. Before last Saturday night, the Tigers were 36-1 in night games in Death Valley under Les Miles. Well, now they are 36-2. Yes, it took a game-winning drive from the defending national champion Alabama Crimson Tide, but what was proven last Saturday night is that it can be done. It was previously done by Florida in 2009. If Dan Mullen does indeed want to back up his talk of potential national championships in Starkville, this could be a huge step towards giving those comments meaning.
For starters, LSU played the best game of their season against Alabama last weekend. Any hopes of a run at a national championship run for the Tigers, though, were crushed with that loss. LSU put all they had into that game. Zach Mettenberger played his best game in an LSU uniform. He was 24 for 35 for 298 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions. Mettenberger took care of the football and really gave the LSU running game and defense a chance to fill in the blanks and beat the Tide.
A lot of things will factor into this game. A lot of people will claim certain X-factors. People will claim quarterback play, defense, running games, and even special teams(he ain't the mad hatter for nothing), but in my humble opinion, this game comes down to effort.
Saturday afternoon, MSU was simply defeated. They got beat bad, and at times, it appeared the Bulldog defense wasn't playing as hard as they could. I hate to be the person to claim lack of effort, and I could be wrong. State could have been tired after going toe-to-toe with Alabama the week before and chasing Johnny Manziel around for the whole game, but it sure appeared that the Bulldog defense was playing to a level below their ability. The good news, though, is that effort can be fixed.
On the LSU side of things, you have to question if they will bring effort to this game. They are all, but eliminated from national championship and SEC title contention and they are coming off of a very disappointing loss. It is not out of the realm of possibilities that LSU will show up and show less than they up until this point.
Another note on LSU is that while Alabama seems to reload and become more talented each season, this LSU defense looks like it has taken a step back from the defense they put on the field last season. This defense looks far less intimidating and impossible to score on. While Keke Mingo and Sam Montgomery are two of the premier pass rushers in the country and come together to form probably the most tough-to-deal-with tandem in the country, the secondary is beatable this year. Tharold Simon has proven to be good, but far inferior to the level of a Mo Claiborne or Pat Peterson before him. At the other cornerback position, LSU rotates two freshman in Jalen Mills and Jalen Collins (native Mississippian). There is no reason to believe that Tyler Russell can't exploit these corners, if he can stay on his feet.
On the other side, it could be a challege for Zach Mettenberger to have success against MSU's secondary(although, it has struggled lately). There is reason for concern, however, as receivers Jarvis Landry, Odell Beckham, and Russell Shepard have really stepped up as of late.
The MSU front seven will need to create a pass rush against Mettenberger (he is like a statue in the pocket) to help the secondary out. That is a given. On the other hand, the front seven will need to be disciplined and tough against the run. LSU likes to pound-it-out and MSU's front seven could be susceptible to that, if they do not show up ready to play and hit LSU in the mouth.
I think we all know that LSU is more talented. I think we all know that it will be tough to win in Death Valley. However, I think we all can agree that MSU is catching LSU at a good point, when they are reeling from a close loss. I think that if MSU shows up ready to play as hard as they can for 60 minute (sorry to break out the coaches speak on you guys), then I truly believe that MSU can pull off the upset and really wouldn't be surprised if they did.