Mississippi State vs. LSU Preview
Baton Rouge, LA - LSU has been far from perfect, particularly quarterback Jordan Jefferson, and probably can't afford to be any longer.
Finally playing in front of the home fans should provide some motivation as well.
Despite meeting an SEC foe they haven't lost to in more than a decade, the 15th-ranked Tigers face a potentially tough matchup with Mississippi State on Saturday night and a possible turning point in their season.
Two less-than-stellar performances have not kept LSU (2-0, 1-0) from climbing the rankings each week, though Jefferson and coach Les Miles know there is much to improve.
Oddsmakers from online sports book BroburySports.com have made the LSU –7.5 point spread favorites for Saturday’s game against the Mississippi State. Current NCAA Public Betting Information shows that 71% of more than 1,053 bets for this game have been placed on the LSU –7.5.
The Tigers nearly blew a 20-point lead in their opener in Atlanta before winning 30-24 over North Carolina, which was missing 13 players - some starters - due to an NCAA probe. Last Saturday, LSU led by only a touchdown in the fourth quarter in a 27-3 win over a Vanderbilt team which had lost nine straight.
"We play a much better football team in a Mississippi State team that is 1-1, and we understand that the challenge is much more significant," Miles said.
Following this meeting with the Bulldogs (1-1, 0-1), who nearly upset then-No. 21 Auburn last week, LSU faces No. 21 West Virginia and rival Tennessee before visiting 10th-ranked Florida.
The Gators matchup is the only one in that tough stretch which won't be at Tiger Stadium. This is the latest LSU has gone into a season without playing a home game since 1993, so maybe finally seeing the home crowd will inspire the Tigers to play better - they're 24-1 in Saturday night home games under Miles.
Jefferson, though, might be wary of the fans' reaction if he struggles again. He couldn't lead LSU to any points in the second half against the Tar Heels, then finished 8 of 20 for 96 yards versus Vanderbilt.
The junior has been ineffective running the ball, gaining 28 yards on 23 carries.
"We still won. That's all that really matters," Jefferson said. "Even the best quarterbacks in the world have bad games. ... That's just reality and I would just hope that the fans would really be realistic."
One of the best games of his career came against the Bulldogs on Sept. 26, when he threw for 233 yards and two touchdowns without an interception in a 30-26 victory.
Jefferson was intercepted for a fifth consecutive game last Saturday as the ground game carried the offense. Stevan Ridley atoned for his two fumbles in the opener by rushing for 159 yards and a touchdown.
"He just put it to himself, and that's just what he needed to do," Miles said. "With each carry and each experience, these guys are starting to come to life, and we're looking forward to watching it develop."
The Tigers had 280 yards rushing last week and now face a Mississippi State defense which gave up 190 in a 17-14 loss to Auburn on Sept. 9.
However, the Bulldogs limited LSU to 30 yards on 31 carries last year, and they put up a good fight in their last visit to Tiger Stadium - a 34-24 loss in 2008. Still, Mississippi State has lost 10 straight in the series since 1999, giving up at least 30 points in each, and nine in a row at Baton Rouge since 1991.
"Anytime you go down to LSU, it's a tough place to play, especially at night," Bulldogs coach Dan Mullen said. "A road game down there is a great atmosphere for college football ... so they pose an exciting challenge for our team. We played them really well last year."
Mullen's team faces an LSU defense which ranks among the top five nationally in total defense (285.5 yards per game), run defense (44.5 ypg) and sacks (10).
Tigers senior Drake Nevis leads the SEC with 3 1/2 sacks and now he'll try to chase down two Bulldogs quarterbacks.Chris Relf and Tyler Russell have been sharing the snaps for Mullen - both performed well in a season-opening rout of Memphis but were held in check by Auburn.
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