2011 Predictions & Game Story
Week 3 - LSU at Miss State
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LSU 19 … Mississippi State 6
CFN Analysis: LSU beat up Mississippi State with tremendous line play, power running, and a shockingly effective passing day from Jarrett Lee. It's one thing for the Tigers to be able to wait out the Bulldogs with its toughness, but it's another to pull out the win because Lee, who's considered a liability, was able to push the ball down the field and keep the chains moving. LSU might have only converted 4-of-12 third down chances, but it held on to the ball for over 36 minutes and controlled the game throughout. No, Lee isn't a top talent, but the offensive line gave him time to work, MSU had to worry about the Tiger ground game, and the results created an effective mix that showed why this year's LSU team might be the best yet under Les Miles. Against West Virginia next week, the key will be to control the ball again to keep the high powered Mountaineer offense off the field.
Mississippi State now has a problem on its hands. Chris Relf was fine, completing 11-of-17 passes for 96 yards, but he wasn't able to get going on the ground and he wasn't moving an offense that finished with 190 yards. Even so, LSU wasn't running away with the game and it was still there for the taking, and Relf was benched for Tyler Russell. The goal was to try to get the passing game going a little more effectively, but it didn't work. Yes, Relf held on to the ball a bit too much, and yes, he didn't make quick enough decisions, but LSU had a lot to do with that. With Louisiana Tech up next before going to Georgia, MSU has to establish whether or not this is Relf's team or not, but at 0-2 in the SEC, there can't be any panic.
(AP) STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Jarrett Lee completed 21 of 27 passes for 213 yards and a touchdown and No. 3 LSU defeated No. 25 Mississippi State 19-6 on Thursday night.
Lee was the unexpected star, firing conservative, but nearly perfect passes all over the field. His 19-yard touchdown pass to Rueben Randle with 11:56 left in the fourth quarter gave LSU a 16-6 lead.
His only mistake was an interception minutes later, but as it had all game, LSU's defense stuffed Mississippi State with little trouble. LSU (3-0, 1-0 Southeastern Conference) had 14 tackles for a loss and held the Bulldogs (1-2, 0-2) to 193 total yards and two field goals.
Despite Mississippi State's cowbells providing an ever-present backdrop, LSU won its 12th straight game in the series dating to 1999.
Lee's success is quickly making LSU fans forget about expected starter Jordan Jefferson, who has been suspended all season after being arrested for his alleged role in a bar fight in August. Lee wasn't spectacular, but he didn't have to be, calmly managing the game and hitting open receivers downfield.
LSU's Spencer Ware rushed for 107 yards on 22 carries.
LSU was its own worst enemy much of the game before its late-game breakout. In a particularly brutal stretch in the third quarter, the Tigers committed five penalties in less than nine minutes, losing 67 yards in the process. Lee's interception gave Mississippi State newfound life after falling behind 16-6.
But LSU's defense was good enough to make up for all those transgressions, constantly putting pressure on Mississippi State quarterback Chris Relf and disrupting the Bulldogs' vaunted running game, which had gained at least 300 yards rushing in each of the season's first two games.
MSU's Vick Ballard managed just 38 yards on 10 carries, while Relf rushed for 10 yards on 16 carries.
The loss continues Mississippi State's frustration against SEC Western Division rivals. The Bulldogs are 2-10 against the West, with both of those wins coming against rival Ole Miss. It's been a tough six days for Mississippi State, which lost to Auburn 41-34 on Saturday.
As expected, the game was bruising from the outset. Relf was thrown to the turf on a sack by LSU's Kendrick Adams on the second play of the game, and the tone never changed for either team.
Though both teams are known for their run-first approach, the quarterbacks had a surprising amount of success, especially in the first half. Lee completed 13 of 15 passes for 128 yards in the first half and Relf countered with 9 of 11 completions for 78 yards.
But that success bogged down once either offense entered the red zone, with both teams having to settle for field goals that did little to alter momentum.
LSU scored first after a 16-play, 77-yard drive ended in Drew Alleman's 21-yard field goal. Mississippi State answered with its own bruising 14-play, 57-yard drive, capped by Derek DePasquale's 26-yard field goal.
LSU took a 6-3 lead into halftime after Alleman drilled a 42-yard field goal with 1:18 left in the second quarter.
The field goal parade continued in the second half, with DePasquale's 42-yarder tying the game at 6 in the third quarter. Alleman answered with a 41-yard field goal to give the Tigers a 9-6 lead with 1:46 remaining.
Finally, LSU was able to break through with Lee's touchdown throw to Randle, which quieted the cowbells.
By the time the Tigers finished off the game, the small contingent of LSU fans in the corner of the stadium was chanting "This is our State," a not-so-subtle jab at Mississippi State's marketing campaign that is constantly shown on Davis Wade Stadium's massive jumbotron.
LSU (2-0) at Mississippi State (1-1) Sept. 15, 8:00, ESPN/ESPN3
Here's The Deal … It's time for Mississippi State to actually beat someone.
The Bulldogs have gotten far better under head coach Dan Mullen with a strong enough offense to push anyone in the conference and anyone in America, but, technically, the best win last year came against a mediocre Florida team on the road, and when there was a chance to make a statement last week at Auburn, for the second straight season the team came up just short.
And now they get a national showcase game against an LSU program that's pummeled them in SEC play. The Tigers have won 11 straight in the series and 18 of the last 19 with the last loss coming in 1999, and now they come in red hot after taking away Oregon's manhood and making the Pac-12 irrelevant with a convincing 40-27 win two weeks ago. If they get to the national championship this season, they'll have truly earned it with road trips to West Virginia, Alabama, and Tennessee ahead, along with home games against Florida, Auburn, and Arkansas, but first, they have to take care of business and wipe away Mississippi State's SEC title hopes.
The Bulldogs have talent and they have as good a rushing attack as any in America, but coffee's for closers, and if they want to be considered among the key programs in the toughest division in the toughest conference in America, this is the home game they have to win. This is the defining moment for the Mullen era so far, and if his team is good enough to win this game, it's good enough to win at Georgia in a few weeks and get right back in the SEC championship hunt. There's a trip to Arkansas down the road, but South Carolina and Alabama have to come to Starkville.
Why LSU Might Win: The Tigers already stuffed the best spread running game in America and they're not going to be fazed by the Mississippi State attack. Last year, LSU stopped the Bulldogs cold allowing just 152 yards on the ground in the 29-7 win, but the run defense is even stronger this season holding Oregon's gimmick ground game to just 95 yards. The Tiger defensive front has been dominant over the first two games – Northwestern State came up with -4 yards last week - and while it hasn't done much to get to the quarterback, it's helped come up with 15 tackles for loss and allowed just 91 yards of total rushing offense.
The Bulldog offensive line has been great so far, but it's going against a night-and-day better defensive front seven than it saw last week at Auburn, and it's doing it with a few big bumps and bruises. Center Quentin Saulsberry will play, but he banged up his knee last week, while left tackle James Carmon was carted off the field last week with a leg injury.
Why Mississippi State Might Win: LSU still hasn't shown it can complete a forward pass against a defense with a pulse. Oh sure, Jarrett Lee completed 9-of-10 passes last week before injuring his ankle, and Zach Mettenberger was terrific completing 8-of-11 throws for 92 yards and a score, but that was against Northwestern State. Against Oregon, Lee only connected on 10-of-22 throws for 98 yards and a score, and while he did what he had to do, that was only because the plays were wide open with the Ducks selling out to stop the Tiger ground game.
Auburn's Barrett Trotter was good in last week's game against MSU, but he only connected on one big play and struggled to move the chains on third downs. The Bulldogs will send everyone and the cowbell at the Tiger running backs to force Lee – who says he's fine and will play the whole game – to win the game through the air. MSU will take its chances with LSU throwing the ball.
What To Watch Out For: While he might not be Patrick Peterson, Tyrann Mathieu is doing a pretty good impersonation. The LSU defensive back was a ball-hawking reserve throughout last season, and now he has taken charge as the star of the secondary and as a decent punt returner, averaging 7.25 yards per try while coming up with a team-leading 14 tackles, a half a sack, and the fumble return for a score against Oregon. Against MSU, his job will be to serve as the last line of defense against the ground game that'll get to the next level time and again, even against the great Tiger defensive front.
Mississippi State's Vick Ballard and Chris Relf have established themselves as the best 1-2 rushing punch in the SEC over the first part of the season. Ballard, who was held to 28 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries last year at LSU, has been almost unstoppable, following up a 166-yard, three touchdown day against Memphis with 135 yards and a score, and five catches for 64 yards, against Auburn. R
elf might have been stopped on the key play against Auburn in last week's loss, but he had a terrific game completing 20-of-33 passes for 195 yards and a touchdown with a pick to go along with 106 rushing yards. Last year he managed just 35 yards passing with two picks, and ran for 46 yards, against the Tigers. To beat LSU, these two have to take control early and control the game throughout. They're going to get stopped cold from time to time, but they have to win their share of battles.
What Will Happen: LSU's defense is too good and too physical. Mississippi State runs with more power than Oregon, but Oregon runs better and more effectively. This will be a slugfest of a battle with emotion playing a big part early on, but all the craziness from the home crowd won't be enough to overcome a brutish LSU ground attack that'll once again mask the problems with the passing game. This isn't going to be pretty in any way, but it'll be intense.
CFN Prediction: LSU 24 … Mississippi State 16
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