The theme all week for LSU hasn't been revenge for last year's 44-34 debacle against Mississippi State to open the season. Throughout the week, this Tigers team has been treating the Bulldogs with heightened antennas because they know first hand how easy it is to get burned by this high throwing offense.
With some late eyebrow raising absences, if this team hopes to get back into the conference conversation as a threat, there needs to be improvement in a number of areas. Here's how we see the game going in Starkville.
Score Prediction: LSU 37, Mississippi State 33
This game has all the makings of a shootout, particularly with the news out of Thursday that star cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. is questionable for the contest. There will be more known on Stingley's status closer to game time but this team has made strides in a lot of important areas as this game gets closer.
LSU's offense looks like it's starting to scratch the surface of its potential after the non-conference win over Central Michigan that saw a number of freshmen break out and quarterback Max Johnson toss for five touchdowns and look his most comfortable. A lot of it had to do with the up tempo nature of the offense and the team will continue to implement that strategy moving onto a Bulldogs defense the Tigers should have success with.
"I think it just allowed our guys to play fast,” Johnson said of the tempo. “Get in rhythm and just take some shots whether it was 1-on-1 or whether it was running the ball and not letting the d-linemen to get set. I've got to call it faster. Whether it's getting the line set or getting the protections set, but I think overall, the tempo helped us a lot."
Johnson tossed has tossed for at least three touchdowns in each of his five starts and there should be a similar expectation against the Bulldogs. It has also helped that Kayshon Boutte moved to the slot and the team has been able to get him the ball quick where he can make plays in the middle of the field.
What that move also did, that even Orgeron was a little surprised by was put those freshmen like Deion Smith, Jack Bech and Brian Thomas in one-on-one situations they were able to exploit. Expect all three to be heavily involved in the gameplan as well as the two freshmen running backs Corey Kiner and Armoni Goodwin.
The defensive gameplan is pretty straightforward and that is to drop as many players in coverage as possible, meaning the three headed monster of Ali Gaye, Maason Smith and BJ Ojulari will need to be at their best with not much pass rush help behind them. This defensive line has proven in three games that it can get after the quarterback, leading the nation in sacks and did a phenomenal job of stopping the run against Central Michigan.
But the coverage on the intermediate and deep throws down the middle reemains a concern.
Looking to the linebacker core of Damone Clark, Micah Baskerville, Navonteque Strog and Mike Jones, this group will need to do its job in communicating and stopping the pick routes and crossing routes that proved difficult last season and against UCLA.
"He's really come along, his problem was never coverage, it's about taking on 350-pound guards and making tackles in the box," Orgeron said of Jones. "This is the game he needs to play, he will play and should play very well."
If Stingley does miss this game, the attention will move to Ricks, Jay Ward, Cordale Flott, Dwight McGlothern and Major Burns into keeping those explosive plays downfield to a minimum.
"We're gonna have to eliminate the explosive plays, they're gonna make plays," Orgeron said. "We're gonna have to tackle well, it's gonna be a battle. We may have to match scores, get in that type of game. Hopefully we don't get in that type of game."