The Mississippi State Bulldogs roll into Baton Rouge this week to take on Coach Orgeron’s Bayou Bengals of LSU in a top-25 SEC West matchup. Although it would come as a surprise to the Maroon and White faithful of long ago, this series has been slightly in favor of the Bulldogs the past four years. Mississippi State enjoyed a bye week during what would become the craziest, most unpredictable week of college football thus far this season, which was punctuated by LSU’s impressive upset of number 2 Georgia. Mississippi State seeks to avoid becoming the second set of Bulldogs to flee Death Valley with the proverbial tail between their legs. LSU is a rush-first attack that prides itself on tough, down-hill pushing from their rushing core of backs, with quarterback Joe Burrow having enough in his legs to keep a defense honest. LSU is averaging 5.35 yards per rush as a team, and their running prowess has only increased as the season has worn on. Their premier halfback in Nick Brosette, who has 640 yards and get 4.8 yards per rush. Although not at all the Fournette or Guice of season’s past, but he’s a capable back. Clyde Edwards-Helaire is a good secondary back for the Tigers, averaging 5.3 yards per rush with 475 yards on the year. Burrow gets 4.2 yards per rush from the quarterback position. Most of their rushes seems to be on the backs of the backs—the offensive line looks sufficient, but not prolific. They’ve given up 16 sacks in 7 games, including almost 3 per game to SEC opponents. As most are aware, the Bulldog’s strength lies in their defensive front. It will be interesting to see how MSU handles and average or mediocre offensive line.
Tiger quarterback Joe Burrow is unquestionably so-so in his statistics, but the guy has a knack for winning. He takes care of the ball-only two interceptions to his discredit so far this season, and both of those were in LSU’s only loss at Florida. He only completes 53% of his passes, but he’s averaging 13.6 yards per completion (just over 7 yards per attempt). When they get a completion, they make them count. Burrow has an adjusted QBR of 72.5, which most would describe as “decent”. While he doesn’t jump off the stat sheet, Burrow is 6-1 as a starter and could be described as “game manager extraordinaire”, which is all LSU has needed so far. He’s had just enough in the tank to lead his team to a top 5 ranking, so he’s no scrub.
The receiving corps in Baton Rouge is one that has had production from a yards-per-catch standpoint. Justin Jefferson has 27 catches for the purple and gold, by far the most of any pass catcher. Other than him, LSU spreads the ball around. Terrace Marshall, Foster Moreau, Ja’Marr Chase, Derrick Dillon, and Stephen Sullivan each have about 10 catches apiece on the year. However, those 5 average about 15 yards per catch. LSU is not a team that uses its running back often in the passing game, so the aerial attack will focus on receivers and tight ends.
LSU is a team that doesn’t do anything perfectly and isn’t outstanding at any one facet (although their running game is getting that way). But they have mixed up their offense enough, made the difficult plays, and come through in the clutch enough to win all but one game, and they had a chance to tie Florida up late. They slightly favor the run, but they’re a mostly balanced offense. Oddly enough, LSU has the exact same amount of rushing yards as passing yards—1415. LSU is a grind-it-out offense that owns a jack-of-all trades kind of characterization; it has a whatever-it-takes air about itself. This kind of approach stems from a coaching staff that has performed better than expected. Especially offensively, one can’t help but admire the job Coach Orgeron and his staff have done with these Tigers. The Bulldogs will have to play a physical, intelligent, disciplined defense to slow down LSU. State matches up well against this team, but they have to go to Death Valley at night and take on the number 5 team in the country—a tall order for any team. It will be a tough 60 minutes for Coach Moorhead and his Dawgs, but this is certainly a winnable game for the boys in Maroon.