Mississippi State (1-3) at LSU (3-1)

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  • Game info: 12:30 pm EDT Sat Sep 30, 2006
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LSU is playing its best defense in 37 years, but its offense isn’t too bad either.

The ninth-ranked Tigers look to continue their strong play when they host Mississippi State Saturday in the 100th meeting between the Southeastern Conference rivals.

LSU (3-1, 0-1 SEC) has the nation’s top scoring defense and the second-best overall defense. The Tigers have allowed just 20 points and 741 yards through the first four games, their best rankings since 1969.

After a disappointing 7-3 loss to then-No.3 Auburn on Sept. 16, LSU’s defense again showed its consistency, recording four sacks and holding Tulane to 231 yards in a 49-7 victory.

LSU allowed only its second touchdown over the last 24 quarters. The Tigers grabbed two interceptions, giving them eight and tying with Alabama for the conference lead. Junior safety Craig Steltz has picked off passes in three straight games.

“He is just a great player. He understands how to play the game,” Tigers coach Les Miles said. “He has great savvy. He gets to the ball as a physical player. He will make contact, and he has the attention to get his hands on balls.”

Along with that stifling defense, the Tigers boast the SEC’s top scoring offense at 35.5 points per game. Early Doucet III scored three first-half TDs last week, two on catches from quarterback JaMarcus Russell and one on a 17-yard run.

The Tigers have converted 41 straight trips inside the red zone, scoring 33 touchdowns and eight field goals. They also haven’t turned the ball over in two straight games—a span of nearly 64 minutes.

Alley Broussard, Jacob Hester and Justin Vincent were LSU’s three main running options over the first three games, but Miles also threw Charles Scott into the mix last week.

The freshman, who was Louisiana’s 2005 Mr. Football, responded with 101 yards on 15 carries, including two TDs. He’s the team’s leading rusher with 187 yards.

“He did an excellent job of seeing the holes and hitting them hard,” said Russell, who has completed 66.3 percent of his passes for 916 yards and seven TDs this season. “Being a young guy he just needs to get more comfortable holding onto the ball when you take so many hits from different directions.”

Russell will try to lead LSU to a victory in its SEC home opener. The Tigers have outscored opponents 139-13 in three home games this season and are looking for their seventh straight victory over Mississippi State (1-3, 0-2).

LSU leads the all-time series 63-33-3 over the Bulldogs, including a 37-7 victory against them on Oct. 1. Mississippi State failed to score a point in its first two games before finally getting its offense going in a 32-29 loss to Tulane on Sept. 16.

The Bulldogs rushed for a season-high 166 yards last week and earned a 16-10 overtime win over UAB. Omarr Conner, who became the team’s third different starting quarterback this season, scored the game-winner on a 21-yard run.

Conner has done a little of everything for the Bulldogs this season, throwing for 356 yards, rushing for 116 and catching eight passes for 70 yards. Mississippi State’s primary rushing threat is Anthony Dixon, who has rushed 57 times for 227 yards and two touchdowns.

The Bulldogs’ elation over their first victory of the season may be short-lived as they meet Top 25 teams in back-to-back weeks. Following Saturday’s matchup with LSU, the team hosts No. 4 West Virginia.

“But that’s part of being in the Southeastern Conference. You’re going to play big-time football. You’re going to play the big dogs,” said Bulldogs coach Sylvester Croom, whose team is looking to snap a 21-game SEC road losing streak. “You’ve got to line up and let’s get ready to go.”

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