When No. 9 LSU takes the field Saturday, it will be facing a hungry No. 22 Mississippi State squad looking to redeem its season.
The bulldogs are coming off two straight Southeastern Conference losses.
The Tigers face a tough task, going up against a Bulldogs squad who, before losing to No. 15 Texas A&M last weekend, climbed as high as No. 13 in The Associated Press rankings.
“They’re just a talented team; they have great concepts in all aspects of the game,” said LSU coach Les Miles. “[Mississippi State coach] Dan Mullen has done a great job this season.”
The Bulldogs are led on offense by junior quarterback Tyler Russell who has thrown 16 touchdowns and only three interceptions through nine games this season.
Mississippi State displays true balance in the passing game with seven receivers catching at least 10 balls apiece, but they are led by senior wide receiver Chad Bumphis.
“He runs really good routes. He’s really clean out of his cuts,” said LSU junior safety Eric Reid. “That’s their best skill set as a group: they all run great routes.”
Bulldogs junior running back LaDarius Perkins leads Mississippi State on the ground with 804 yards and eight touchdowns. Perkins functions as the team’s primary back despite his relatively small 5-foot-10, 190 pound frame.
For comparison, LSU’s smallest back — Michael Ford — is 5-foot-10, 216 pounds.
Perkins has feasted on weaker competition this year with 724 of his yards coming against unranked opponents. Perkins is only averaging 4.1 yards a carry in SEC play, compared with 6.8 in out-of-conference games.
The past meetings between these teams have deformed into defensive dogfights with the Tigers averaging fewer than 300 yards in the last three match-ups.
Coming off its best performance of the season against Alabama, the Tigers’ offense will look to continue its success against a Bulldogs defensive unit ranked in the bottom half of the SEC.
“The game [against Alabama] gave us a lot of confidence,” said senior wide receiver Russell Shepard. “That’s the kind of offense we know we can be, and when we play like that we’re close to unbeatable.”
The continued development of LSU’s injury-depleted offensive line has been key in producing a consistent passing attack. Junior quarterback Zach Mettenberger completed 69 percent of his passes against the Crimson Tide, his highest percentage since week three against Idaho.
“When the offensive line gives us good protection, it allows us to run better routes,” said sophomore wide receiver Jarvis Landry. “We can get further down the field, and it opens up the passing game.”
Shepard — who ripped off an 18-yard gain against Alabama — will look to feature more in the option game after the play’s success. Shepard was a high school quarterback and has the ability to give the Tigers a new offensive wrinkle.
“We’ve been working on the wildcat formation a lot,” Shepard said. “You’ve seen it with Spencer [Ware], you’ve seen it with me, but we have some things to run with a quarterback y’all haven’t seen yet.”
After carving up the No. 2 ranked rushing defense in the land to the tune of 139 yards, the Tigers face a struggling Bulldogs unit ranked No. 70 in the nation.
Against Texas A&M, the Bulldogs were gashed on the ground for 361 yards and five touchdowns.
“After proving what we can do last week, we’re looking forward to continuing our success into this game,” said sophomore guard La’el Collins.
With last Saturday’s loss to Alabama, the streak of 22 straight wins within the confines of Tiger Stadium ended. The Tigers now have a new streak on their minds.
“It gives everyone, especially the young guys, some extra motivation to win this one,” said junior linebacker Lamin Barrow. “It’s the start of their legacy here.”