Thursday, November 8, 2012
Five storylines: Mississippi State at LSU
By Gary Laney
BATON ROUGE, La. -- Remember the 20th century?
Seems like a long time ago now. It was way back then, in 1999 to be exact, when Mississippi State last defeated LSU. That was also the last MSU team to start 7-0 before this year's team pulled it off.
The Bulldogs are 7-2 now, and after consecutive lopsided defeats at the hands of Alabama and Texas A&M, MSU is hoping to bounce back with its first win over LSU this century.
1. One-sided series: LSU leads the series 69-33-3, has won 12 straight and 19 of 20.
Everybody else seems to take their turns beating the Tigers. Ole Miss is only a few years removed from its last win. Even Kentucky has one over LSU in an LSU national championship season. But the Tigers seem to own the Bulldogs. Can the best team of the Dan Mullen era reverse the trend?
If it happens, it'll be a new experience for LSU coach Les Miles, who has never lost to the Bulldogs as LSU's head coach.
2. Secondary concerns: Mississippi State's secondary was being sold as one of the best in the SEC just a couple of weeks ago. But in the last two weeks, the Bulldogs have allowed opponents to complete 49 of 63 passes for 567 yards, a trend that must stop if they are to bounce back from a two-game losing streak.
3. Mettenberger magic?: In LSU's 21-17 loss to Alabama, LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger had a career day, completing 24 of 35 passes for 298 yards and a touchdown. Was it a one-hit wonder, or a coming out for a first-year starter making his ninth start? With the yards MSU has allowed lately through the air, it'll be interesting to see.
4. Air back in the balloon: MSU has lost two straight by a combined 56 points after starting 7-0. LSU is coming off a loss that all but killed its national championship ambitions for the season.
Which team will be able to bounce back from the disappointments to play a better game? MSU has the motivation of picking up a signature win for Mullen. LSU has the motivation of competing for a possible BCS bowl berth.
5. Air Russell: MSU has rarely been known for its passing attack, but it has found a solid passer in Tyler Russell, who already has 1,954 yards and should pass the 2,000-yard mark against the Tigers.
Russell has also protected the ball with just three interceptions in 263 attempts, an important factor against an LSU team that's plus-11 in turnover margin.