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Tigers vs. Mississippi State Bulldogs Pick
No. 3 LSU Tigers (2-0 SU, 1-1 ATS) at No. 25 Mississippi State Bulldogs (1-1 SU, 1-1 ATS), Thursday September 15th, 2011 8:00PM EST, College Football Week 3
Davis Wade Stadium Starkville, MS
By Jay Horne, College Football Handicapper of Predictem.com
Point Spread: Louisiana St. -3.5/MSU +3.5
Over/Under Total: OFF
SEC West action heats up this week with a big Thursday night showdown in Starkville, Mississippi when the no. 25 Mississippi State Bulldogs host the no. 3 LSU Tigers. Mississippi State suffered a mild upset last week losing on the road to Auburn 41-34. QB Chris Relf was stopped just shy of the goal line as time expired on the last play of the game preventing the Bulldogs from forcing overtime. This week Mississippi State looks to rebound when they return home against one of the best teams in the entire nation by way of the LSU Tigers.
LSU caught the nations attention in the opening week of the season by dominating the Oregon Ducks, who were ranked no. 3 at the time, by score of 40-27. The lopsided victory has the people in Baton Rouge thinking National Championship type thoughts. Last week, LSU blew out an inferior Northwestern State group 49-3. While the Tigers seem to be playing extremely well at the moment, this will be their first road game in the SEC this Thursday night. It has been proven over the last few years that any road game in the SEC is extremely dangerous, especially when the home team is coming off a disappointing loss like Mississippi State will be this Thursday. Therefore, the Tigers are expected to be tested heavily against Dan Mullens Mississippi State Bulldogs when the two teams collide inside Davis Wade Stadium.
Over the first two weeks, Mississippi State has moved the football very well averaging 588 yards of total offense in both games. The Bulldogs run a heavily favored rushing offense behind QB Chris Relf and running back Vick Ballard. Ballard leads the team with 301 yards rushing with 4 touchdowns. Ballard is a shifty back that defenses have a tough time bringing down. The Bulldogs tailback is averaging an outstanding 9.7 yards per carry and definitely has big play potential. However the bigger reason the Bulldogs have posed as a big offensive threat is because of the emergence of QB Chris Relf. Relf has always been a solid running threat, but has struggled mightily throwing the football forcing too many turnovers over the past few seasons.
This season Relf has continued to make plays on the ground, but has become a much better passer at the same time. Relf is not a guy that will post big numbers in the passing game, but if he can just remain effective it really helps the Bulldogs rushing attack. Relf has been just that completing 61% passing for 397 yards with 3 touchdowns and 1 pick through his first two games. This week Mississippi State faces an extremely tough defensive front from LSU. Therefore, Relf will have to make some plays with his arm to prevent the Tigers defense from stacking the box against the Bulldogs rushing attack. If Relf can make those plays, Mississippi State should be able to move the football behind that strong running game.
On the other side of the field, LSU does not have the flashiest offense like a lot of the other top teams around the country. Instead Coach Les Miles, preaches ball security along with a solid running game while falling back on that dynamic LSU defense. The offense does not have to be explosive, because the LSU defense normally wins the field position battle. Therefore, expect to see a big dose of the LSU rushing attack behind an experienced offensive line to set the tone for the LSU offense.
Running backs Michael Ford and Spencer Ware have shared carries in the backfield. Ware received the starting nod entering the season and has posted 119 rushing yards with 3 touchdowns. However, Ford has shown more explosiveness on lesser carriers averaging 6.2 yards per carry and 4 total touchdowns on the ground. Still both guys are solid rushers and will get plenty of touches this Thursday. In the passing game, QB Jarrett Lee has stepped up nicely for the suspended Jordan Jefferson. Lee has completed 19 of 32 passing on the season for 231 yards with 2 touchdowns and 0 picks. Lee did not get much playing time last week, but that was because the Tigers dominated Northwestern State and did not exactly need his presence. This week things will be completely different as Lee will be in charge of controlling the game all 4 quarters in a heavily anticipated inner-conference showdown.
Jays Pick to Cover the Point Spread Auburn running back Michael Dyer ripped the Mississippi State rushing defense last week for 150 yards and two touchdowns. The Bulldogs defense was flat horrible at times against the run which will be a big concern against the LSU rushing attack. Additionally, LSUs defense is one of the best in the nation. The Bulldogs run a lot of option style running plays that has been effective thus far this season, but it is not necessarily a complex offense to defend if you can move extra defenders closer to the line of scrimmage. The LSU secondary is in all likelihood the very best unit in the entire nation. The Tigers defense will put 6,7, or possibly even 8 guys in the box and will still be able to defend the Mississippi State passing offense. Therefore, the Bulldogs struggle to score in this one as LSU cruises to 3-0. Take LSU and good luck!