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Game Scout: LSU at Mississippi State

The SportsXchange

KICKOFF: Saturday, 7 p.m. ET

GAMEDATE: 10/5/13

SITE: Davis Wade Stadium, Starkville, Miss.

TV: ESPN

SERIES: LSU leads the series 70-33-3 against Mississippi State. The Tigers have won each of the last 13 seasons and 20 of the last 21 meetings.

RANKINGS: LSU No. 10; Mississippi State unranked

KEYS TO THE GAME

LSU finds itself in the unfamiliar position of trying to get its defense to play up to the level of its offense.

In recent seasons it generally has been the defense that has been top notch and the offense that hasn't been able to match that productivity, at least not consistently.

Now in the wake of a 44-41 loss at Georgia last Saturday, it's clear that the Tigers offense is operating on a higher level than the defense.

LSU accumulated 449 yards against the Bulldogs, but gave up 494. Zach Mettenberger guided the Tigers to a go-ahead touchdown with 4:14 left in the game, but Georgia ripped through the defense, going 75 yards in six plays to score the winning touchdown.

Mettenberger already has thrown 13 touchdown passes, one more than he threw last season. Even though Jeremy Hill didn't get 100 yards against the Bulldogs, LSU has run the ball effectively much of the time.

Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. had 100 yards receiving in the same game for the second time this season.

But the defense couldn't' even slow down Georgia's offense as the Tigers lost for the first time in 35 games in which they have scored 30 points.

"I think we had guys trying to do too much," LSU Coach Les Miles said. "A simple assignment on the first play of the game, defensive end should have contained. The ball breaks inside of him. Instead of just asking him to do the things we've asked him to do, he's going to do an exceptional play.

"We had some blown coverages. There needs to be a comfort and a relaxation that all you have to do is play your assignment and basically we would have had two touchdown passes covered extremely well."

Miles said he thinks the Tigers are playing the best players, but they need to develop more quality depth.

"One of the things we're going to want to do is get some fresh bodies out there with the veterans," he said. "If we can get some young guys ready to take more snaps in games like that, the veterans get to play a little bit fresher, more ready to play.

"We're looking for those guys that can come in and give five-snap breaks, if you will. If we can get that done, that will make the whole defense a little bit fresher."

MSU has had very little success against the Tigers of late losing 13-straight times dating back to 1999. The Bulldogs have only three wins over LSU since 1985 and trail the overall series 70-33-3.

The open date allowed State head coach Dan Mullen an opportunity to watch the Tigers game against Georgia last weekend. Although LSU came up on the losing end of a 44-41 decision, Mullen was impressed with the Tigers offense that produced 449 yards on the day.

"Looking at the explosiveness of LSU's offense, we're going to have to score some points," Mullen said. "To do that we're going to have to execute at a very high level and make a lot of plays against a talented defense."

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Tigers

--WR Kadron Boone took advantage of Georgia focusing on Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. to grab two touchdown passes from Zach Mettenberger in the first quarter against Georgia. Boone, a senior who was one of Mettenberger's favorite targets last season, had just one pass this season prior to last week, but increased his career touchdown total to eight.

--WR Jarvis Landry continued his stellar start to the season despite the slow start against Georgia. He wound up catching 10 passes for 156 yards and one touchdown. Landry has clearly established himself as Mettenberger's top weapon.

--DT Anthony Johnson has to start making a bigger impact on the defensive line. He has been double-teamed frequently and he and fellow tackle Ego Ferguson are playing an inordinate number of snaps because of youthful depth, but he's the most talented interior defender and most experienced lineman. If the defensive line is going to play better, Johnson will have to be a catalyst.

--SS Craig Loston is the only player in the secondary who can reduce the type of mental mistakes that crippled the defense against Georgia. The senior is by far the most experienced defensive back and must help the younger players understand their assignments better. Some of the breakdowns occurred while Loston was sidelined by a groin injury, but others have taken place while he has been in the game.

Bulldogs

--QB Dak Prescott will have a role again this week. Coach Dan Mullen announced that Tyler Russell will resume his role as starting quarterback there will be plenty of Dak Prescott sightings on Saturday. The sophomore leads the SEC's signal callers with six touchdowns and has amassed 924 yards and nine total touchdowns overall.

--LG Gabe Jackson was named as the SEC's Offensive Lineman of the Week following his perfect performance against Troy. The 6-foot-4, 340-pounder did not have a missed assignment against the Trojans and is tied for 2nd among active players nationally with 43 consecutive starts.

--WR Jameon Lewis has already set career highs with 12 catches for 248 yards and leads the team in both categories. He is averaging 27.6 yards per catch in the last three games scoring at least one touchdown in each of those contests.
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