After breezing past its first two opponents, No. 11 LSU kicks off SEC play Saturday with a challenging road date against Mississippi State. The Tigers have outscored their opponents 72-10 with junior tailback Derrius Guice off to a sizzling start out of the backfield.
Guice ran for 122 yards and two touchdowns in a season-opening 27-0 win against BYU before scoring twice again as part of a 102-yard effort in last weekend’s victory over Chattanooga. Guice, who is replacing Leonard Fournette - now the starting running back for the Jacksonville Jaguars - should receive a larger workload this weekend after carrying only 15 times last Saturday. Danny Etling has been efficient (and has yet to throw an interception) for the Tigers, but Bulldogs quarterback Nick Fitzgerald has been strong as well, accounting for eight touchdowns in his team’s first two wins. “Once you get into conference play, things are going to ramp up,” Fitzgerald said this week. “If anyone needs any outside motivation other than we’re playing an SEC team, they probably shouldn’t be playing. This is what we’re here for. This is why we came to school here. This is the conference we play in, for which we’re really excited and really ready to go.”
TV: 7 p.m. ET, ESPN. LINE: LSU -7
ABOUT LSU (2-0, 0-0 SEC): The Tigers need to clean up their play despite two convincing wins, as they have committed 21 penalties in two games and also have missed three field goals on the young season. “They know we need to play better,” said coach Ed Orgeron, who added that the penalties are “unacceptable” and that “we need to still find a field goal kicker.” On the bright side for LSU, 2016 sack leader Arden Key, who missed the first two games with a shoulder injury, has been cleared to play against Mississippi State.
ABOUT MISSISSIPPI STATE (2-0, 0-0): The Bulldogs overcame an early 9-0 deficit to rout Louisiana Tech 57-21 last week as Fitzgerald totaled five touchdowns and Jeffrey Simmons scored on a fumble recovery and a blocked punt. Mississippi State is averaging 6.8 yards per carry with Aeris Williams leading the squad in yards (190) and Fitzgerald registering a team-high three rushing scores. The Bulldogs have kicking issues of their own, as freshman Tucker Day has already missed two field goals and two extra points.
1. Key had two sacks against Mississippi State last season as LSU notched a 23-20 win. Fournette led the offense that day with 147 rushing yards and two scores.
2. Mississippi State ranks eighth nationally and first in the league with an average of 53 points per game.
3. The Bulldogs are the only team in the SEC that has not allowed a sack.
PREDICTION: Mississippi State 27, LSU 20