Sat Sep 26 05:15pm EDT
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LSU 30, Mississippi State 26. It's going to be a footnote in the national picture, just another upset on a day already full of them -- hello, Michigan -- but as far as losses go, this one was a gigantic step forward for Mississippi State in its second SEC game under Dan Mullen. Viz:
From the Bulldogs' perspective, LSU isn't just a significantly more talented conference powerhouse; more than any other team in the SEC, the Tigers have served as annual reminders of just how far MSU really is from competing for the division title. Coming into today's game in Starkville, the Tigers had won nine in a row this decade by an average score of 42-12, and 16 of the last 17 by an average of 36-13. The Bulldogs hadn't come closer than two scores of LSU since 2000; even in 1998, the year MSU won its only division championship and LSU nearly finished dead last in the West, the Tigers humiliated the 'Dogs, 41-6. LSU always beats Mississippi State, and always by a lot.
So for the Bulldogs to hold LSU in check offensively (two of the Tigers' four touchdowns were on an interception return and a punt return) and come within a play of pulling this upset -- within a yard of pulling this upset -- let's just say that when the sting of the decisive fourth-and-one failure at the LSU goal line wears off, I suspect (coming from a clan of State partisans myself) they're going to be pretty satisfied about the direction of Cap'n Mullen's ship.
LSU, on the other hand, LSU has to be as deeply and seriously concerned as any 4-0 team can be. The Tigers escaped a very similar game in Seattle with a win, and have subsequently been able to justify that close call with Washington's upset over USC on the same field. Maybe Mississippi State is heading for a colossal takedown itself. But LSU was fairly anemic again on offense -- just 286 yards, and just 53 on the ground, on 1.7 per carry -- continuing a trend that already had Les Miles concerned coming into this one. That's two close calls and zero impressive wins for the Tigers in the easy portion of the schedule against Washington, Vanderbilt, Louisiana-Lafayette and Miss. State. Now comes Georgia, Florida and Auburn in a row, and LSU hasn't put together a game yet that looks like it would be good enough to beat any of them.