SEC showdown pits No. 10 LSU against Mississippi State

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Updated: 10/02/2013 11:14 am

Starkville, MS (SportsNetwork.com) - After suffering a heartbreaking loss at nationally-ranked Georgia last weekend, the 10th-ranked LSU Tigers will try to rebound on Saturday evening when they pay a visit to fellow SEC Western Division member Mississippi State.

The Tigers rose all the way to No. 6 in the polls following a 4-0 start, which included impressive wins over TCU (37-27) and Auburn (35-21), and they had an opportunity to cement themselves as one of the nation's best in a marquee showdown with the Bulldogs last Saturday. But after scoring the go-ahead touchdown with under five minutes to play, they surrendered the game-winning score with 1:47 left as they suffered the tough 44-41 loss.

"The good news about the Georgia game is we played awfully hard," LSU head coach Les Miles said. "Guys gave everything they had. I think we had guys trying to do too much. Just make one more play. One More play and we win. That's certainly for the coaches to address and get prepared."

Mississippi State has alternated losses and wins this season, which has led to a 2-2 record. Although the Bulldogs lost their SEC opener to Auburn on Sept. 14 (24-20), they bounced back a week later with a 62-7 rout of Troy to start their current four-game homestand.

"We will hopefully get healed up and get our guys ready to go against LSU," said coach Dan Mullen, who's team had a much-needed bye last week to overcome some crucial injuries.

LSU has a commanding 70-33-3 lead in the all-time series with Mississippi State and has been especially dominant in recent years, winning 13 straight matchups and 20 of the last 21 overall.

LSU is off to its best offensive start in school history. On top of scoring 42.8 ppg, it has amassed at least 400 yards in each of the first five games for the first time ever.

The Tigers' outstanding offense is largely due to the improved play of their quarterback. With 13 touchdown passes, Zach Mettenberger has already surpassed his total from 2012, and he has thrown for nearly 280 yards per game at a 64.1 percent completion rate with just one interception. Mettenberger, formerly a backup at Georgia before being dismissed from the team in 2010, threw for a career-high 372 yards against in his return to Athens last week.

"I think what he did, how he played, gave us every opportunity at victory," Miles said.

Since being suspended for the first game of the season, Jeremy Hill has been outstanding out of the backfield, amassing 437 yards while scoring seven touchdowns. Terrence Magee (225 yards, three TDs) is also a big-play threat, averaging 7.0 ypc.

Mettenberger is locked in on Jarvis Landry (34 receptions, 520 yards, seven TDs) and Odell Beckham (26 receptions, 507 yards, four TDs), who rank third and fourth, respectively, in the SEC in receiving yards. No one else has more than four receptions.

LSU's defense had a bit of a meltdown against a potent Georgia squad, but the unit has still performed admirably in allowing 24.4 ppg behind only 346.8 ypg.

Lamin Barrow is the leading tackler with 30, with D.J. Welter and Jermauria Rasco hot on his heels with 26 stops apiece. Jalen Mills has two interceptions to lead the secondary, while Jordan Allen has racked up a pair of sacks and a forced fumble.

Mississippi State's offense has also been strong, amassing 34.0 ppg and 463.8 ypg, and the unit has done a great job of controlling the clock as it earns more than 35 minutes of possession time per game.

The Bulldogs' success has come largely without starting quarterback Tyler Russell, who has missed three games with a concussion, but he is on track to play against LSU. Dak Prescott (709 passing yards, 215 rushing yards, eight total TDs) has filled in admirably in Russell's absence.

The running backs have been held in check in the early going, with both Ashton Shumpert (128 yards, two TDs) and LaDarius Perkins (109 yards) being held to fewer than 4.5 ypc.

Jameon Lewis is a great downfield threat, compiling 248 yards and two scores on just 12 receptions. Robert Johnson (10 catches, 158 yards) is the only other player on the roster with double-digit receptions.

Defensively, Mississippi State has been stingy, ranking third in the SEC in points allowed (14.8 ppg) and second in yards (310.0 ypg).

Deontae Skinner is a multi-talented linebacker, racking up 23 tackles, 2.0 TFL, a sack and an interception. Nickoe Whitley has a pair of picks, and Benardrick McKinney leads the way with 24 tackles.

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