The No. 8 LSU Tigers have won 14 straight against the Mississippi State Bulldogs, and head coach Les Miles has never endured a loss to the SEC rival during his nine-year tenure. But Miles isn’t looking past the Bulldogs and junior quarterback Dak Prescott.
The Bulldogs are off to their second 3-0 start in three seasons under head coach Dan Mullen, and enter Saturday’s SEC opener at Tiger Stadium with one of the most balanced teams in the country.
"I can tell you that this Mississippi State team is talented as any and is capable as any and maybe as complete, offense, defense, special teams, as any Mississippi State team we've seen," Miles said to the Jackson Clarion-Ledger.
Even though the Bulldogs haven’t beaten or played a ranked opponent, they’ve still been impressive to start the season. Prescott’s tossed nine touchdowns, rushed for another two and totaled 969 yards from scrimmage in the Bulldogs three victories over Southern Mississippi, UAB and South Alabama. Junior running back Josh Robinson is fifth in the SEC with 288 yards and three touchdowns, and Mississippi State owns the No. 22 rushing attack in the country.
The Bulldogs defense is also second in the SEC with 11.0 sacks, third with five interceptions, and 11 th in the country allowing 12.3 points per game. Junior linebacker Benardrick McKinney leads the team in tackles-for-a-loss (5), total tackles (20) and one of three Bulldogs with at least two sacks.
"I love the attitude of our team. You can tell the demeanor has changed a little at practice,” Mullen said to The Times-Picayune. “Everybody understands now it's time to get into conference play and it's going to be for real and they're excited to go down to LSU and play on Saturday night."
Mullen’s squad is also holding teams to 80.3 rushing yards per game, a fact Miles won’t overlook.
But the Tigers have equally rolled through their first three weeks, and their defense hasn’t allowed a touchdown in the last nine quarters. Quarterback Anthony Jennings and running back Kenny Hilliard helped stage an incredible 17-point comeback in the season opener against then-No. 14 Wisconsin, and the Tigers defense gave up a combined 299 total yards and forced four turnovers in two shutout victories over Sam Houston State and UL Monroe.
Behind Hilliard and Leonard Fournette the Tigers are gaining 226.3 rushing yards per game, but sophomore receiver Travin Dural provides balance to the offense with 12 catches for 370 yards and four touchdowns.
Start Time: Saturday, 7 p.m. EST
TV Channel: ESPN
Betting Odds: LSU -9.5
Over/Under: 49.5 points
Prediction: LSU over Mississippi State, 31-17