The No. 14 LSU Tigers travel to Starkville to face the No. 25 Mississippi State Bulldogs in one of the few Saturday games in college football that features two ranked teams. The quarterback matchup is arguably the most important storyline of the SEC contest following last year's stunning ending.
Head coach Les Miles turns to Brandon Harris, whose 2015 debut was cut short after the season opener against McNeese State was canceled last week. The strong-armed sophomore struggled in his lone start of 2014, completing just three of his 14 passes against powerhouse Auburn. But he still managed to finish his first season with some bright notes, like his effort against the Bulldogs in Baton Rouge.
With LSU trailing, 34-10, Harris relieved Anthony Jennings and threw two fourth-quarter touchdown passes to Malachi Dupre for 31 yards and 30 yards to keep the Tigers in the game. Harris would finish with 140 passing yards, though the unranked Bulldogs still managed to hold on for the upset win, 34-29. The loss snapped LSU's 14-game winning streak against the Bulldogs, and dropped the Tigers from No. 8 to No. 17. The victory lifted Mississippi State to No. 14 in the country, and Dan Mullen's squad would go on to reach No. 1 in Week 8.
Miles claims Harris has made clear improvements from last season, and should be ready to lead the Tigers.
"He’s been around and taken snap after snap after snap for us, so he’s much improved and I think people will see that when he plays," Miles said.
"I’m a different quarterback than I was last year against Auburn," Harris said. "I’m focused on the task at hand; that’s watching film every day, getting ready for Mississippi State. I don’t plan on having the game we had last year."
Harris will go up against one of the best quarterbacks in the nation, and one who burned LSU last year. Dak Prescott threw for two touchdowns and rushed for another, while finishing with 373 total yards against the Tigers. Against a boisterous crowd at Tiger Stadium, it was perhaps the best performance of Prescott's career.
The senior is coming off an overall impressive 2014 season, and is looking sharp this season after a well-rounded effort in a 34-16 win over Southern Mississippi on Saturday. The dual threat threw for 237 yards and had a 49-yard run down the right sideline in the third quarter to go along with his 7-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter that closed out the pesky Golden Eagles.
While Mullen has a Heisman Trophy candidate at quarterback, Miles has among the best running backs in the nation. Leonard Fournette was one of the top freshmen in the SEC in 2014, rushing for 1,034 yards and 10 touchdowns.
The Bulldogs were supposed to have some questions at running back with the departure of Josh Robinson, but may have a pair of quality backs to replace him. Brandon Holloway and Ashton Shumpert provided a solid effort against Southern Miss, rushing for 89 yards on 15 carries.
In the most important SEC contest thus far, Mullen predicts Davis Wade Stadium will give the Bulldogs a boost.
“I expect a great environment,” Mullen stated. “Part of what makes this league great is the home field advantages that you have. We expect a huge, sold-out crowd with the student body going crazy.”
Betting Line: LSU by 4 points
Over/Under: 50 points
Start Time: 9:15 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN
Live Stream: Watch ESPN
Prediction: Mississippi State over LSU, 31-28