Baton Rouge, LA (Sports Network) - The 22nd-ranked Mississippi State Bulldogsand the ninth-ranked LSU Tigers attempt to rebound from tough losses last weekas the two meet in an SEC showdown on Saturday night in Baton Rouge.
Mississippi State could not have asked for a better start, winning its firstseven games of the season for just the second time in school history. The teamwas able to take advantage of a soft schedule as it has beaten just one teamthat currently owns a winning record (Middle Tennessee). The Bulldogs were putto the test in the last two weeks against ranked opponents and failed on theroad against Alabama (38-7), and at home versus Texas A&M (38-13).
"We as a team played very poorly today -- that's 100 percent my fault," headcoach Dan Mullen said following the loss to Texas A&M. "That was as bad of aperformance that I think we've had here in a long time."
"This week will be a big challenge going to play a night game down at LSU," hecontinued. "We're going to have to come out and play. This is even more soimportant here in Southeastern Conference play and out here in the West. Youhave to bring your 'A' game every single week."
With big preseason expectations, LSU did what it was supposed to do by winningits first six games, but since then it has faced four ranked foes in a row,winning against South Carolina (23-21) and Texas A&M (24-19), and losing toFlorida (14-6) and Alabama (21-17). The Tigers appeared to be on their way toputting themselves back in the national championship picture last week whenthey were leading Crimson Tide late in the fourth quarter, but they coughed upthe lead in the final two minutes to all but squander their hopes at an SECChampionship run.
"Our football team came in here to win," head coach Les Miles said after thecrushing defeat. "We did not go timidly into the game. I felt that we playedextremely hard. I was thrilled with how Zach Mettenberger played. (The)defense gave up two big drives. That is uncharacteristic of them...The goodnews is that we have a good football team. The good news is that we will fightagain. They learned a tremendous lesson today: give everything you got. Thatis what they did."
LSU has had a firm handle on the storied rivalry between these two clubs,going 69-33-3. The Tigers have been especially dominant in recent years,winning the last 12 matchups.
Despite slipping up in its last two games, the Mississippi State offense (30.8ppg) has been one of the best the school has ever seen. It has scored 27points or more in seven games for just the third time in school history, andits 277 points through the first nine games is the most since the 2000 squadput up 307 points through nine contests.
Tyler Russell hasn't wowed anyone with his completion percentage (.593) or hispassing yardage (217.1 ypg), but with 16 touchdown passes against only threeinterceptions, he is one of only seven quarterbacks in the nation with 15-plusTD passes with three or fewer picks.
After catching a touchdown pass against Texas A&M, Chad Bumphis (34receptions, 536 yards, seven TDs) now has 19 career TD receptions, adding tohis school record. The senior needs 27 receptions to tie the program record of162 set by David Smith in 1970.
LaDarius Perkins has run into some trouble over the past two weeks, rushingthe ball a combined 28 times against Alabama and Texas A&M for just 80 yards.Still, he's one of the SEC's best every-down backs with 908 total yards andeight touchdowns, including four 100-yard rushing games.
The story of the Bulldogs defense (19.7 ppg) has been their ability to takethe ball away, as they have forced 21 turnovers and rank sixth in the nationwith a plus-13 turnover margin.
With 45 tackles, four interceptions and a fumble recovery, Johnthan Banks iswell on his way to another All-America selection. Darius Slay also has fourinterceptions, and Benardrick McKinney (73 tackles) and Cameron Lawrence (72tackles, seven TFL, four sacks) have been tackling machines from thelinebacker position.
The LSU offense (29.4 ppg) has found success with an outstanding rushingattack that puts up over 200 ypg, but the emergence of its junior quarterbacklast week against the most vaunted defense in the nation was a great sign.
Zach Mettenberger has struggled for the most part this season, completingfewer than 59 percent of his passes while throwing for a meager 190.8 ypg, buthe had a career-day against Alabama, completing 24-of-35 passes for 298 yardswith a touchdown and no interceptions. He now has eight touchdowns and fourpicks on the year.
The Tigers have a stable of running backs they can rely on, but lately it'sbeen Jeremy Hill (429 yards, six TDs) who has been getting most of the work.With 107 yards last week, he became the first Tiger to rush for 100 yards inthree straight games since 2008.
In the receiving game, Odell Beckham, Jr. (30 receptions, 493 yards, two TDs)has been Mettenberger's most trusted deep threat, while Jarvis Landry (292yards) became the team leader in catches with 31 following an eight-receptionperformance last week.
LSU's defense (15.3 ppg) has been fantastic all season long, ranking third inthe nation in allowing just 253.1 ypg. The unit played well again for most ofthe game against Alabama, but it couldn't come up with a stop when it neededit most in the final two minutes.
Kevin Minter is one of the best linebackers in the country, as he's puttingtogether a career year with 82 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, three sacks, andan interception. Eric Reid, Jalen Mills, Tharold Simon and Ronald Martin allhave two interceptions apiece, and as a team LSU is tied for 10th in thenation with 23 takeaways.