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Mississippi State vs. LSU Game Preview

Get ready for MSU's SEC and home opener with our game preview as the LSU Tigers come to Starkvegas for a top 25 matchup.

Derick E.Hingle-USA TODAY Sports


davis wade stadium


8:15 p.m.



Another late kickoff awaits the Mississippi State football team (1-0) as the LSU Tigers (0-0) come roaring into town for the first SEC matchup of the 2015 season.

MSU enters Week 2 fresh off a 34-16 victory over instate rival Southern Miss, while LSU had its season opener against McNeese State suspended after just two possessions.

The Tigers will be out for revenge after Dak Prescott and the Dogs embarrassed them on their home field a season ago, on the way to a 34-29 victory after a late LSU comeback.

The win was the first of three straight top 10 victories for the Bulldogs that ultimately propelled the team to a No. 1 ranking for five weeks. The loss snowballed for LSU, as they got blasted two weeks later on the road at Auburn by 34 points.

Some have called this year's game the most important one of the season for MSU. A 1-0 start in conference play would be huge with back-to-back road trips to Auburn and Texas A&M in the near future.

Saturday night will feature two top 25 teams after MSU sneaked into the AP Poll at No. 25, giving the SEC an unbelievable 10 teams in the rankings -- a new record. LSU comes in at No. 14 in the AP Poll.

Where do they rank?

MSU offense                                  LSU defense

Points per game- 34 (57th)              Points per game- TBD

Total YPG- 442 (56th)                       Total YPG- TBD

Passing YPG- 237 (62nd)                  Passing YPG- TBD

Rushing YPG- 205 (52nd)                Rushing YPG- TBD

LSU Offense                                   MSU defense

Points per game- TBD                      Points per game- 16 (48th)

Total YPG- TBD                                 Total YPG- 413 (79th)

Passing YPG- TBD                             Passing YPG- 311 (100th)

Rushing YPG- TBD                           Rushing YPG- 102 (45th)

Headlines to watch

First game jitters

It goes without saying both teams face advantages and disadvantages from LSU's first game cancellation. On one hand, MSU had the opportunity to shake the rust off against a weaker opponent and get back into football mode while LSU will be doing so on the road in the SEC. On the other hand, LSU rested up and watched film while State only has 2014 film on the Tigers. That's a big advantage for Les Miles' team -- who will employ a new defensive scheme -- but they also missed an opportunity to get their young quarterback quality reps. Brandon Harris, who saw limited action last year but won the starting job in the fall, will immediately be thrown into the fire. He's the x factor for the Tigers, and how he responds to a tough road environment will determine if they win or lose the game.

Battle in the trenches

Last year MSU flat out dominated the line of scrimmage on the way to 302 rushing yards -- most of which came between the tackles. LSU only managed to scratch out 89 yards on the ground. The maroon team owned the line of scrimmage for the majority of the contest, and Dak Prescott aside, that's the reason they pulled out a victory in Death Valley. That game was only a sign of things to come. LSU's defensive line did not live up to its reputation all season, and they need that back if they want to play at an elite level again. Their front seven is the key to the game. If they limit Dak's ground game and force him to throw from the pocket, it could be a long night for MSU. But if another repeat of last year happens and the front seven gets mauled at the point of attack, MSU may drop 40 points.

New defensive coordinators

Another disadvantage for State when it comes to no film on their opponent is the uncertainty that comes against facing a new Kevin Steele defense. It sounds like Steele's plan is to be versatile with his scheme, running both the 4-3 and 3-4 defenses. There will be several looks Dak and the offense will see that are different than what they're used to seeing from an LSU defense. LSU's offense will face a new scheme against Manny Diaz as well. Yeah, they have a whole season of 2010 film and a full game last week. But a few wrinkles have changed since Diaz's first stint in Starkville, and he didn't reveal too much against Southern Miss. He will bring pressure from all angles and do everything he can to force Harris into making mistakes. Both offenses have to make in game adjustments and get a feel early for what the defenses are trying to do.

Underrated receivers

The game will showcase two of the more underrated receivers in the SEC in Travin Dural (LSU) and De'Runnya Wilson (MSU). Both players put up big numbers in this game and led their respective teams in receiving yards a year ago. They've gotten some love with second and third team preseason All-SEC selections, but they're not talked about among the elite. It's as good a time as any if they want to put themselves in that spotlight. With all the focus on the QB's and running backs, Wilson and Dural have to make plays and keep the chains moving on third downs.

Heisman watch

They say that big time players make big time plays in big time games. So expect to see Dak Prescott and Leonard Fournette make a bigger impact on the game than any player on the field. State was lucky last year to face LSU before Fournette matured and got comfortable in the offense. He's an elite running back with the best combination of power and speed in college football, and the defense has to contain him at all costs. Prescott embarrassed the Tigers on their home field and made highlight reel runs that we've seen at least a billion times since. It's no secret: he has to have another monster game for his team to win, and the same can be said for Fournette.

Game plan for victory

Mississippi State: Bring the heat on Brandon Harris all night and force him to throw interceptions. Don't give up the deep ball and limit Leonard Fournette around 90 to 100 yards. Run Dak early to open up the offense and utilize play action in the second half. Take some shots down field to test a safety group that won't have one of its best players in Jalen Mills (injured). If Ashton Shumpert struggles early, give some carries to redshirt freshmen Dontavian Lee and Aeris Williams -- two secret weapons unfamiliar to LSU after limited playing time in Week 1.

LSU: Force Dak Prescott to stay in the pocket and win the game with his arm. Throw the ball early to loosen up the defense and then pound Fournette until they prove they can stop him. Keep it simple for Brandon Harris until he gets a few throws under his belt and finds a groove. Score the first touchdown to silence the cowbells early and make MSU play from behind.

Prediction: It's a defensive struggle at first and neither team gets very much momentum. The offenses find some success toward the end of the first half and the rest of the game is as entertaining as they come. Fournette and Prescott both put up big numbers, but Harris struggles in the pocket thanks to a ferocious pass rush from A.J. Jefferson and Ryan Brown. The LSU defense focuses too much on Prescott and leaves holes for Ashton Shumpert -- who is the surprise player of the game.

Mississippi State- 31 LSU- 24