March 27, 2023

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The LSU Tigers Begin SEC Play At Home Against The Mississippi State Bulldogs

Mississippi State (2-0) vs. LSU (1-1)

LSU leads all-time series 76-36-1

The first SEC test for Brian Kelly begins tonight and it will be a tough one as the LSU Tigers face off against the Mississippi State Bulldogs. Here is everything that you need to know about this big matchup between these two SEC West foes.

Previous Games This Season:

The LSU Tigers will look to carry some positive momentum from last week as the Tigers scored a school record 37 points in the first quarter. LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels completed 10 of 11 passes for 137 yards and three touchdowns while rushing for another touchdown for the first score of the game. Three Tigers running backs scored another five touchdowns in the game, and the offense accounted for 550 total yards. Micah Baskerville also helped points on the board blocking a punt for a safety and returning an interception for a touchdown. Overall, it was a great bounce back performance for the Tigers after a poor showing in the opening game of the season against Florida State.

Meanwhile for Mississippi State, the Bulldogs have started the season 2-0 with two impressive victories against two Division I programs in Memphis and Arizona. Both times, the Bulldogs were dominating with 20 plus point victories in both games.

Mississippi State’s Offense:

Offensive guru Mike Leach enter his third season as the Misissippi State head football coach and brings the Air Raid offense to Starksville, Mississippi.

His quarterback Will Rogers leads the nation in completions per game (38.5), second in passing touchdowns (9), and third in passing yards per game (381.5). Rogers is one of the best quarterbacks in the SEC and is coming off a great 2021 season in which he threw for 4,739 yards and 36 touchdowns while completing 74% of his passes.

His receiving core is one of the most experienced cores in the SEC returning over 70% of its production from last season. Through two games, Rogers’ favorite targets are Caleb Ducking and Rara Thomas. Ducking is tied for ninth in the country and second in the SEC with three touchdown catches. Thomas has had five catches in both games to start the season and is sixth in the SEC with 72 yards per game. There is also Austin Williams, who is one of the most productive receivers in Mississippi State history as he is eighth all time in receptions (122) and sixth all time in touchdown catches (14).

Mississippi State’s offense is tied for second with LSU in scoring at 44 points per game. Despite being a heavy passing attack, the Bulldogs still have a ball control offense ranking second in the country in terms of time of possession.

Mississippi State Defense:

While Mississippi State’s high flying Air Raid offense may be what the program is known for, but the defense is also very stingy. The Bulldogs have one of the most experienced teams in the country with 16 starters returning from last year’s team. A lot of it returns on the defense with 79% of its production returning for defensive coordinator Zach Arnett.

The Bulldogs will run a 3-3-5 defense and have been stingy against the pass deflecting 16 passes, which lead the SEC and is tied for sixth in the FBS. The trio of safety Jalen Green, cornerback Emmanuel Forbes, and cornerback Decamerion Richardson all have three or more pass deflections. Safety Collin Duncan is also graded as one of the best coverage safeties in the country. Last week against Arizona, this unit

Up front, the Bulldogs’ best player is linebacker Tyrus Wheat, who has seven tackles, two pass breakups, and a quarterback hurry in the first two games. Wheat is a Sunday player and can line up in many different ways defensively. Nathan Pickering is another run stuffer for the Bulldogs and is graded as one of the best in the SEC. In terms of stopping the run, the Bulldogs are one of the best in the country allowing fewer than 150 yards in 17 games since 2020, which is third behind only Alabama and Georgia in the SEC.

LSU Offense:

Jayden Daniels is heating up as the Tigers’ quarterback as he led eight straight touchdown drives dating back to the Florida State game. He also enters the game as the SEC’s most efficient passer. The Arizona State transfer comes in the ballgame with six touchdowns for the Tigers and will now enter tonight starting his 32nd game.

It was a bounce back game for the running backs as I mentioned earlier with Armoni Goodwin, Noah Cain, and Josh Williams all rushing for touchdowns. This week, the running back room gets some extra help as John Emery Jr. returns after being suspended for the team’s first two games.

Like the Bulldogs, the Tigers have a lot of weapons at wide receiver. Preseason All-American Kayshon Boutte enters the game with 90 catches for 1,306 yards and 14 touchdowns in his career. Jaray Jenkins is another veteran that has stepped up for the Tigers in the clutch so many times over the years and comes in with 67 catches for 1,012 yards and 10 touchdowns. Sophomore Malik Nabers leads the Tigers in catches (8), receiving yards (123), and yards per catch (15.4). Jack Bech led the Tigers in catches as a true freshman and had a touchdown last week against Southern. Brian Thomas has seven catches for 99 yards and a touchdown so far this season. Chris Hilton led the team in receiving last week against Southern with five catches for 47 yards. Then, finally, ULL transfer Kyren Lacy has three catches for 43 yards in the first two games of his LSU career to round out this deep receiving core. The Tigers have three tight ends that they like to use in freshman Mason Taylor, Kole Taylor, and Jack Mashburn.

Last week, the Tigers offensive line made some changes on the offensive front moving Garrett Dellinger from center to left guard, putting Charles Turner in at center, and then Miles Frazier from left guard to right tackle. The coaching staff continues to play musical chairs with the starting offensive line to find the right combination. There have been some updated changes as Miles Frazier will start tonight at right guard with Emery Jones making his first start at right tackle.

Heading into this game, the Tigers’ offense has averaged 449 yards per game.

LSU Defense:

The LSU defensive line took some hits up front early on when losing Maason Smith for the season due to a torn ACL injury. With Ali Gaye having to sit out the first half against Southern and BJ Ojulari sitting out in order to get healthy against Mississippi State, it was an opportunity for both Desmond Little and Saivion Jones to show what they can do on the edge in a starting role. Both players played well and showed that they can provide depth on the defensive line. Jaquelin Roy still is one of the best interior defensive linemen in the SEC and is accompanied by Mekhi Wingo, who has done a fantastic job of filling in for Maason Smith. Behind them on the inside will be Jacobian Guillory and Bryce Langston that will play a lot as well.

At linebacker, Harold Perkins showed that he can play many different roles for this defense not only as a linebacker, but even playing in BJ Ojulari’s role as a pass rusher too. As mentioned previously, Micah Baskerville is coming off one if his best games as a Tiger and will now have an expanded role especially in coverage. Mike Jones Jr., Greg Penn III, and West Weeks will continue to see starting action too.

This secondary that is full of new faces will get its biggest challenge of the season going up against the Bulldogs’ aerial attack. Only Jay Ward, Major Burns, and Sage Ryan saw starts in the defensive backfield last year for LSU. Mekhi Garner (ULL), Colby Richardson (McNeese State), Jarrick Bernard-Converse (Oklahoma State), Greg Brooks (Arkansas), Joe Foucha (Arkansas), and Sevyn Banks (Ohio State) have all come in as transfers. There will be a change in the starting lineup tonight as Greg Brooks will switch spots with Jay Ward as Brooks will play safety and Ward will play nickel.

The Tigers defense has given up 327 total yards of offense per game entering their third game of the season.

LSU Key Offensive Player To Watch: QB Jayden Daniels

After leading eight consecutive drives, Jayden Daniels has now cemented himself as QB1 for the Tigers, but a big reason why he transferred from the Pac-12 to the SEC is to showcase what he can do against the best in the country, which is the SEC. His first opportunity comes tonight against a veteran Mississippi State defense. If he has a great performance and capitalizes on his opportunities, then the Tigers can have a great night considering opportunities may be limited against a ball-controlling offense.

LSU Key Defensive Player To Watch: LB Micah Baskerville

Micah Baskerville has shown what he can do in coverage with an interception returned for a touchdown last week and he could be a key asset when playing against the Bulldogs’ vaunted passing attack.

Mississippi State Key Offensive Player To Watch: QB Will Rogers

Of course, the key player for Mississippi State’s pass happy offense is its quarterback Will Rogers. Rogers has set plenty of school records in Starksville and will bring some veteran leadership in a hostile environment. If Rogers has another performance that everybody is accustomed to seeing, it could be a long night for the LSU Tigers.

Mississippi State Key Defensive Player To Watch: LB Tyrus Wheat

LSU head coach Brian Kelly has stated what kind of problems Tyrus Wheat brings defensively as a he is a tweener as he can play defensive end, but he can also play linebacker. He will line up all over the field and can cause a problem to a Tigers’ offensive line that is still trying to find its chemistry together.

Key Position Battle To Watch: Mississippi State Passing Attack against LSU Secondary

LSU has a reputation of calling themselves DBU. These are the type of games that will test that reputation. Even though there are a lot of new faces to the secondary, there is still a lot of talent in the backfield. After having its up and downs against Florida State and also not being tested against Southern, everyone will get the chance to see how this secondary really communicates and holds up against Mississippi State’s passing attack.

Final Score Prediction: LSU 34 Mississippi State 30

Either way, this will be a back and forth game that can go either way. Both offenses will have a lot of success as there are too many great receivers and skill players involved in this football game. Jayden Daniels takes a big step here tonight and establishes himself in front of the fans that he is indeed the guy. Will Rogers and the Bulldogs offense will have their success, but the Tigers get just enough on defense especially with the help of the home crowd to squeak by the Bulldogs in this one.

Mississippi State Game Notes:

  • The Bulldogs defeated the then-reigning national champions LSU in their last trip to Baton Rouge in 2020. That game was also Mike Leach‘s debut as the Mississippi State head coach.
  • Mississippi State has played LSU 115 times dating back to 1896, which is more than any other SEC opponent besides Ole Miss.
  • The Bulldogs and LSU boast the most-experienced receiving corps in the SEC. State returns 72.2 percent of its receptions from a year ago, which trails only LSU (72.5 percent) in the league.
  • The Bulldogs and Tigers are tied for the second-highest scoring offense in the SEC, averaging 44.0 points per game. That trails only Tennessee (46.5).
  • Six different Bulldogs have caught a touchdown this season. Only North Carolina (7), Wake Forest (7) and North Texas (7) have had more receivers score.
  • Three Bulldogs boast streaks of 20 or more consecutive games with a reception. There are just 22 players nationally in the FBS with active streaks of 20 or more games and none other than State’s trio in the SEC.
  • Last time out, WR Austin Williams caught five passes, including two touchdowns. He is now tied for eighth in MSU career history with 122 receptions and tied for sixth with 14 touchdown catches.
  • Williams also tied the school record with 52 career games played. Only 31 Bulldogs have ever played in 50 games, and Williams is one of eight to play 52.
  • State recorded 12 pass defenses (3 INT, 9 PBU) at Arizona last week. That stands as the second-highest total by the Bulldogs since 2000. It also marked MSU’s fourth three-interception game since 2020.
  • The Bulldogs have 16 pass defenses this year, which is tied for sixth in the FBS and leads the SEC. Only seven SEC players have three or more pass defenses in 2022, and MSU boasts a trio with three: S Jalen Green, CB Emmanuel Forbes and CB Decamerion Richardson.
  • The Bulldogs rank second nationally in time of possession, averaging 39:04 on offense through two games. Since Mike Leach arrived in 2020, Mississippi State ranks sixth nationally in time of possession, averaging 34:24 per game.
  • According to ESPN’s FPI, MSU will play the second-toughest schedule in the nation in 2022. The Bulldogs play all six SEC teams that were ranked in the preseason AP poll.
  • Last fall, MSU was the only school in the country that faced six teams ranked in the final College Football Playoff Top 25 and was one of four teams with three wins against teams ranked in the final poll.
  • Mike Leach became the first MSU head coach, at least in the modern era, to beat three teams in one season who finished ranked in a final poll.
  • Over the last five seasons, Mike Leach‘s teams have defeated nine opponents ranked inside the AP Top 25. Only two current SEC head coaches have more such wins in that span.
  • Under Mike Leach, the Bulldogs are 9-0 when scoring at least 30 points and 9-2 when scoring first.
  • The Bulldogs were one of four teams to rank inside the top 25 nationally in both total offense and total defense during the 2021 regular season, joining Alabama, Michigan and Coastal Carolina.
  • Following the 2021 regular season, MSU was the third most improved scoring offense in the SEC and 10th most improved nationally at +9.5 from 2020 (21.4 ppg to 30.9 ppg).
  • Mississippi State has ranked among the top five Power Five teams in the nation in yards after catch in back-to-back seasons under head coach Mike Leach, and State is currently third nationally. The Bulldogs led the nation in yards after catch in 2021, and State ranked second in the SEC and third nationally in 2020.
  • QB Will Rogers leads the nation in completions per game (38.5), is second in passing touchdowns (9) and third in passing yards per game (381.5).
  • WR Caleb Ducking is tied for ninth in the FBS and second in the SEC with three touchdown catches.
  • WR Rara Thomas has had a career-high-tying five catches in consecutive games. He is sixth in receiving in the SEC with 72.0 yards per game.
  • WR Lideatrick Griffin has returned two kickoffs this year, averaging 33.5 yards, and his career average is now 34.2 yards.
  • MSU is one of the most-experienced teams in college football this fall, with a total of 16 starters returning on offense and defense.
  • MSU returns 79.1 percent of its defensive snaps from 2021. Of the 22 players on the defensive side of the two-deep, 17 have been playing for the past two years under defensive coordinator Zach Arnett. Three more have at least played a season in Arnett’s system.
  • MSU picked off three passes at Arizona with two returned for 29 and 51 yards. State has 12 multi-interception games since the start of 2018 going 11-1 in those.
  • LB Tyrus Wheat (83.6) and DT Nathan Pickering (82.3) are both among PFF’s top 10 in run defense grade in the SEC among defensive linemen. S Collin Duncan boasts the No. 5 coverage grade (83.4) in the conference among safeties and corners.
  • Since 2020, MSU has allowed fewer than 150 rushing yards in 17 games, which trails only Alabama (28) and Georgia (26) in the SEC during that span. MSU is holding its opponents to just 108.8 rushing yards per game, which ranks third in the SEC during that span.

LSU Game Notes:

  • A week after becoming the first QB in LSU history to pass for 200 yards and rush for 100 yards in a game decided in regulation, Jayden Daniels accounted for 4 TDs (3 pass, 1 rush) in the win over Southern.
  • Dating back to the Florida State game, Daniels has led LSU on touchdown drives on 8 consecutive possessions (last 3 vs. Florida State, first 5 vs. Southern).
  • In just over a quarter of action vs. Southern, Daniels completed 10-of-11 passes for 137 yards and 3 TDs. He also scored LSU’s first TD on an 18-yard run.
  • In 2 games, Daniels has accounted for 6 TDs (5 pass, 1 rush) and has completed 77.8 percent of his passes (35-of-45) for 346 yards and no interceptions.
  • 11 players caught passes vs. Southern led by Chris Hilton (5-47) and Kayshon Boutte (5-42-1 TD).
  • Offensively, LSU is averaging 449.0 yards per game (184.5 rushing, 264.5 passing).
  • Daniels leads the Tigers in rushing with 132 yards and 1 TD on 19 carries. He’s averaging 6.9 yards a rush.
  • Armoni Goodwin (99 yards) and Noah Cain (74) are LSU’s top two rushers out of the backfield Both players have 2 rushing TDs.
  • Malik Nabers leads LSU in receptions (8) and receiving yards (123), while Jaray Jenkins is tops on the team in receiving TDs with 2. 
  • Defensively, LSU is allowing 327.0 yards per game (166.5 rushing, 160.5 passing).
  • LSU has allowed only 7 first half points in 2 games and the Tigers are limiting opponents to just 4-of-7 on redzone opportunities (2 TDs, 2 FGs).
  • S Major Burns and LB Greg Penn lead the Tigers in tackles with 11 each. Burns is also tops on the team with 2.5 tackles for loss.
  • In his first career start (he started in place of BJ Ojulari), JACK LB Desmond Little had 6 tackles, recovered a fumble and broke up a pass in win over Southern.
  • Thru 2 games, 12 players have earned their first start in an LSU uniform (vs. Florida State – QB Daniels, LT Campbell, LG Frazier, RB Cain, CB Richardson, CB Garner, and Nickel Brooks; vs. Southern – RB Goodwin, TE M. Taylor, LB Little, DE S. Jones, DB Bernard-Converse).

The Final Word From LSU Head Coach Brian Kelly and Players:

LSU Head Coach Brian Kelly

LSU WR Chris Hilton:

LSU TE Mason Taylor

LSU CB Mekhi Garner:

LSU DE Saivion Jones:

If you missed the show earlier, here is “The Chase With Jace” show as Jace and former LSU quarterback Marcus Randall recap LSU and Southern while also previewing LSU and Mississippi State. If you haven’t done so already, make sure to subscribe and hit the bell in order to get notified on when we post every video!

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