college football picks Mississippi State at L-S-U 9-18-10

September 18, 2010

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GAME NOTES: The 15th-ranked LSU Tigers will try to continue their mastery of the Mississippi State Bulldogs, as the two SEC foes come together this weekend at Tiger Stadium.

This is the 104th meeting between the rivals, with LSU holding a 67-33-3 lead in the all-time series. The Tigers have controlled the series of late, winning 10 straight and 17 of the last 18 meetings with the Bulldogs. Furthermore, LSU has won nine straight at home, last losing to MSU in Baton Rouge back in 1991.

That is plenty of reason for LSU to be confidence, as is the team’s 2-0 start, which includes an SEC-opening 27-3 road victory at Vanderbilt last weekend.

“We have some work to do, but it’s nice to go on the road in this conference and win,” stated LSU head coach Les Miles.

It was a solid effort from the Tigers, who nearly let a 20-point lead slip away win the fourth quarter of their season opening win over North Carolina. LSU is now set to play the first of three straight home games, with nationally-ranked West Virginia and Tennessee to follow.

As for the Bulldogs, they too began their SEC slate last week, but they fell short to Auburn, 17-14, at home on Thursday night in Starkville.

“I am proud of the effort we played with,” stated MSU head coach Dan Mullen. “We were down 17-7 at halftime, and we came out and never stopped believing. I guess until the clock hit zero, those kids never stopped believing they were going to win that football game.”

Despite the valiant effort, MSU is off to yet another slow start, as the program hasn’t won an SEC opener since 1999. The team, however, did kick off this season with a 49-7 trouncing of Memphis, so the Bulldogs do have the ability to get the job done going forward.

Facing a much more talented squad, MSU’s offense went from 569 total yards in the opener versus Memphis to just 246 yards against Auburn. Despite the low total, the Bulldogs still had a chance late in the game until their final drive ended with an incomplete pass on fourth-and-15 just inside Auburn territory.

“You look at that game, and we had every opportunity to win that football game. We dropped five passes, that hit kids in the hands. We turned the ball over twice on offense,” said coach Mullen.

Chris Relf and Tyler Russell both saw time under center once again for MSU last week, but neither was effective, combining for just 16-of-34 tosses for 129 yards and one INT. The ground attack did a little better with 117 yards, although the Bulldogs averaged just 3.5 yards per carry. Things won’t get any get any easier against LSU’s stingy defense this weekend, so MSU is going to need to come up with some sort of new plays after last week’s poor performance.

Defensively, the Bulldogs were sharp last week, especially after the intermission when they kept Auburn off the scoreboard. The unit did give up 190 yards on the ground, so that will need some improvement, but MSU did compensated by limiting Auburn to just 158 passing yards.

Also helping the defense’s cause was a pair of takeaways and sacks. Chris White had 11 tackles to pace MSU in defeat, while Nickoe Whitley notched six stops and an INT.

“We just have to put this one behind us. This is a new week and we have to work hard to get the next game,” said White.

Unlike the opening game versus UNC, LSU finished strong against Vanderbilt with 17 points in the fourth quarter of a 27-3 decision. Until that final quarter, however, the Tigers’ offense looked out of sync and QB Jordan Jefferson was partly to blame for the struggles. For the game, Jefferson connected on only 8-of-20 tosses for just 96 yards and an INT. It was certainly a disappointing performance and coach Miles certainly wasn’t pleased.

“We’re going to continue to evaluate our quarterback situation, and frankly we’re going to expect more out of the position,” stated Miles.

At least the ground attack was there to pick up the slack, as LSU gained 280 yards and three TDs via the run. After fumbling twice versus UNC, Stevan Ridley bounced back with a career-high 159 yards and a TD on 17 carries.

“I’m glad Ridley came back and ran hard after turning the ball over twice the week before, said Miles. “He just put it to himself and that’s what he needed to do.”

LSU’s defense controlled last weekend’s game, as the Tigers held Vanderbilt to a mere 135 yards of total offense. The unit permitted just 65 rushing yards on 32 attempts, while surrendering only eight first downs.

“The defense was spectacular, really from the start, and really pressed the Vanderbilt offense to get first downs,” said Miles.

The Tigers also racked up six sacks in the win, their most in a contest since bringing down Arkansas quarterbacks six times in 2008. Ryan Baker, who sat out the opener after breaking his jaw in fall camp, made his season debut with three TFLs and a sack. Drake Nevis has also had success early on with a team- high 3.5 sacks through two games.

LSU has owned this series of late and there is no reason to believe things will change this weekend. Look for the Tigers to dominate on defense, while their ground attack provides much of the scoring for the win.


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