By JAMES MORAN | Tiger Rag Associate Editor
LSU WILL WIN IF …
Bottled Up: Everything Mississippi State does offensively revolves around talented quarterback Nick Fitzgerald, so job one for LSU will be forcing him to play from the pocket. Fitzgerald is at his most dangerous when he breaks contain and has the option to take off running or throw off his scramble. He’s already rushed for 152 yards and three scores this season after setting the single-season rushing record for SEC quarterbacks in 2016. His accuracy has seemingly improved this season, but LSU’s best bet is still to make him play from the pocket and fit throws into small windows against tight man coverage.
Iron Out: The margin for error when playing on the road within the SEC West tends to be somewhere between slim and none. That means now is the time for LSU to start cleaning up the recurring hiccups that’ve persisted through two otherwise dominant showings. LSU has been flagged 21 time —an astounding 10 of which came in the first half against UT-Chattanooga — for 160 yards and have already missed three field goals. Those are the kinds of mistakes that come back and bite you when playing on the road against stiff competition.
MISSISSIPPI STATE WILL WIN IF …
Keep it Up: Mississippi State’s revamped defense has looked dominant so far this season, yielding just 174 yards per game and 2.74 yards per play, but LSU represents a serious step up in weight class from the likes of Charleston Southern and Louisiana Tech. Mississippi State has to prepare for both a heavy dose of Derrius Guice and the vertical passing game LSU showcased last week. Step one will be slowing down Guice, but the challenge will be to do so without leaving a relatively unproven secondary overexposed on the back end. That’s a tall order.
Share the Load: If LSU’s utter domination of Lamar Jackson and Louisville in last year’s Citrus Bowl showed anything, it’s that Dave Aranda understands how to keep even the most electrifying dual-threat quarterback from wrecking the game. For Mississippi State, that means Fitzgerald can’t be the only legitimate threat running the football. The Bulldogs need a productive outing from Aeris Williams, who has rushed for 190 yards through two games, to take pressure off Fitzgerald and force LSU to honor both options of the zone read that’s always been such a staple of Dan Mullen’s offense.