Mississippi State avoided the trap.
We remember 2008. We remember overtime in 2011. We remember a 14-0 deficit in 2015. Louisiana Tech is always a trap. But, on Saturday in Ruston, the Bulldogs evaded the disaster in fine fashion.
State needed a convincing win. It wasn't pretty, finding themselves down 9-0 early in the game with a passing game that was nothing short of anemic. But, things flip turned in an instant.
Nick Fitzgerald got his act together. The defense started dominating. Mississippi State needed some weird things to get it done, such as two touchdowns from defensive lineman Jeffery Simmons and making Louisiana Tech face a 3rd and 93. But, it doesn't matter. The Bulldogs — the ones wearing maroon and white, that is — won.
But, now comes something completely different. Something that involves a 2-23 record over the last quarter century different. Now comes LSU.
This is a pivotal moment for Mississippi State's 2017 season. We have marveled about Todd Grantham's defense and been captivated by State's ability to run the ball. But, although the first two performances have been very impressive, Charleston Southern and Louisiana Tech are no LSU.
LSU is going to run it down the defensive line's throats, go after Nick Fitzgerald, and will take advantage of any inaccurate pass.
Mississippi State — as is the case for basically any game against the Bayou Bengals —is going to have to play flawless football. Nick Fitzgerald needs to be sharp with his throws. This game requires the offensive line to maintain LSU's front seven, so Fitzgerald and Aeris Williams can run the football.
But, this is the first time Todd Grantham's guys up front will be tested by a lethal rushing attack. Derrius Guice can pick a part a vast majority of defensive lines that are thrown his way. I don't think they will be able to completely shut him down. However, the line is going to have to maintain him at the very least.
State does not have many advantages in this game. However, we still don't know much about Danny Etling and his ability at quarterback. This is a call to action for State's secondary. They had a solid showing in Ruston, but LSU is a program that historically prides themselves on having some of the country's best receivers. If Etling misfires, State's defensive backs will need to take advantage.
This is the most important game on Mississippi State's schedule. A win can propel them into road trips to Athens and Auburn with confidence that hasn't been seen since 2014. This game can be the different between a 7-8 win team and a 9-10 win team.
The last two games were great. They showed that Mississippi State has improved dramatically since last season. But, now, they hit the real part of the schedule. This team has the talent to do big things this season, but they need to put the pieces together. And, it starts this weekend against LSU.