No Joy in Starkville: What LSU Must Do to Beat Mississippi State

By Terry Waldrop

After the defensive unit of John Chavis and LSU was more exposed than an Anthony Weiner snap chat session last week, the Tigers had a week of soul searching to do and a plan to come up with. Granted, Aaron Murray is a very good quarterback and Georgia is a very good team. This is the year of the quarterback in the SEC, and there are several good ones remaining on the Tigers’ schedule, including AJ McCarron, who has had mastery over the Tigers in recent outings, and Johnny Manziel, reigning Heisman Trophy winner from Texas A&M. This would be a good week to work on the defense against quarterback from Mississippi State, who, no matter who they put on the field, are not in the stratosphere of the above mentioned guys.

The defensive secondary was burned both in zone and in man coverage last week and throughout the year.   This is partially because the success of the Georgia run game forced the Tigers to put more on the line of scrimmage than they would like, and it gave Murray and company more deep one-on-one coverage, with an athletic, but albeit inexperienced, Tigers secondary. The defensive line has to contain the run better and do a better job of getting pressure on the quarterback to buy the inexperienced Tigers’ secondary a second or two, and that could make all the difference in the world.

The Tigers’ ground game had looked formidable with the emergency of Jeremy Hill. Georgia stacked the box and shut down the ground game of the Tigers. The game plan was to make Zach Mettenberger,  and perhaps the best tandem of receivers in the country, beat them. It worked, but just barely. If Georgia plays LSU again by chance in the SEC Title game, look for a change in game plan, as the LSU passing attack is clearly superior to the ground game, at least at this point. The Tigers will need to re-establish the ground game, and the Bulldogs are a great game at this point in the season for doing just that.

The LSU offensive line played exceptionally well last week, however, the last two possessions were dominated by the Georgia defensive line. After traversing the field the entire game, fatigue may have certainly played a factor for the big guys. Mettenberger is known for all his accuracy and arm strength, and has never been compared to having Colin Kaepernick‘s quickness in the pocket. Teams that can get pressure on Mettenberger can seriously put a dent in the Tiger arsenal. Offensive line play must improve and must be able to dominate the entire game.

Special teams have to play at least even. Odell Beckham Jr. has been superb at returning punts, with the one notable exception last week. Mississippi State doesn’t do a lot at the elite level, but their punt defense is second to none in the country. The battle for field position will be another key to the game.

If the Tigers come out and play LSU football and impose their will early on a Mississippi State team that is clearly near the bottom in the SEC West, look for the canines to be put in the pound quickly. If the Tigers have a Peach State hangover, the boys from Starkville are talented enough, especially playing at home to keep this one close enough to have a chance. For embattled coach Dan Mullins, a win over the nationally ranked Tigers could go a long way toward stemming that tide of disgruntled Starkville Dog fans.

Look for the Tigers to prevail by several touchdowns, and get ready for the remainder of their season, which gets considerably tougher after this week.

Terry Waldrop was a long time college basketball coach and AD, and shares his insight on various subjects.  He  is a writer for Follow him on Twitter @terrywaldrop, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google

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