Make no mistake about it, as Mississippi State faces the No. 6 LSU Tigers down in Baton Rouge on Saturday, the Bulldogs face about as good of a scenario as they could possibly want for a chance at an upset of the defending national champions. Let's count some of the reasons shall we?
First, the usual 100,000 or so screaming Tiger fans will be cut down to only around 25,000. Yes, Mississippi State will eventually have to face a diminished homefield advantage of its own when the Bulldogs play in Starkville, but for today, they're the beneficiaries of what will be a tremendously neutralized Death Valley.
Beyond that, LSU has had massive turnover from a year ago. Of course the headliners of those changes are Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow now being in the NFL and offensive guru/assistant coach Joe Brady now coaching in the pros as well. But the losses for the Tigers go far beyond that. There have been multiple key players opt out of playing in the 2020 season. Wide receiver Justin Jefferson is gone. Four of the five starting offensive linemen from last year's Tiger team are gone. In some ways, it's a totally new team. (Add in that four hours before game time on Saturday, it appears star LSU cornerback Derek Stingley, Jr., won't be able to play due to what has been described by LSU as a non-COVID-19-related, acute illness.)
Then, there's the pressure that comes with replacing all that talent. Can quarterback Myles Brennan, making his first career start, adequately fill Burrow's old shoes? Can the other Tigers step up?
Of course Mississippi State's chances aren't all just based on what's happening with LSU. The Bulldogs are bringing new head coach Mike Leach's Air Raid offense to town. It's likely to be as explosive of an MSU attack as we've ever seen in the long run. But will it click today? State could also confuse LSU defensively as the Bulldogs play their first game in the 3-3-5 scheme under defensive coordinator Zach Arnett.
As you can see, there are plenty of reasons to like Mississippi State's chances today at LSU. And while, no, it wouldn't be the most surprising outcome in the world if the Bulldogs pulled out a victory today, it'll still take everything going right. And that's why it's tough to call it.
It seems like the most likely scenario today is that both teams hit speed bumps adjusting to new players and new schemes. There'll probably be hiccups and miscommunications. The bottom line though is that, from a talent standpoint, it's undeniable LSU has the most of it. Just check the recruiting rankings from past years to see that. Stars don't mean everything. No one knows that better than Mississippi State, who has made a living off of the development of two and three-star players. But those stars are often a good indicator and while LSU has questions, most of those questions will find their answers in the form of top-tier talent. It just makes the Tigers the safer pick today.
Still, don't be surprised if Mississippi State scares the life out of LSU. Particularly if Bulldogs quarterback K.J. Costello gets the Air Raid going early, this one could go into the fourth quarter as anyone's game. But ultimately, the Bulldogs probably fall victim to a tremendous lack of depth on the defensive side and LSU stretches out to a two score or so lead to win the game.
Cowbell Corner Predicition: LSU 38, Mississippi State 24
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