The Blog Hawgs

Sports, Politics, Pop Culture, and Other Stuff … But Mostly Sports

Thursday Night Lights

Posted by Brett Kincaid on September 15, 2011

How many times in your life have you heard this statement?  “I sure wish I was in Starkville tonight.”

Believe it or not, that’s a true statement.  Tonight’s game between LSU and Mississippi State is the first critical game of the SEC West slate.  No, critical is not an overstatement.  This is a huge game that will have season-long implications on both teams and the rest of the division.  An LSU win solidifies the Tigers as one of the teams to beat in the conference and the nation.  A Mississippi State victory puts the Bulldogs back in the SEC West race after a humbling setback last week at Auburn.  The oddsmakers list LSU as a 3-point favorite on the road, meaning Vegas thinks LSU is at least a TD better than MSU on a neutral field.  But this game is not on a neutral field.  It’s going to be in an electric atmosphere, under the lights at Davis Wade Stadium.  I sure wish I was in Starkville tonight.

Why LSU should win:  The Tigers have a defense that may be as ferocious as the one in Tuscaloosa.  They have allowed just 91 total yards rushing in two games.  The secondary is under construction, but John Chavis has plenty of talent to rotate.  Mississippi State uses the read-option to set up its play action passing attack.  If the Bulldogs cannot run, it makes Chris Relf a drop back passer – hardly his strength.  Offensively, LSU has been good enough.  Jarret Lee is your classic “game manager” quarterback, controlling the offense largely by handing the ball to LSU’s latest stud running backs, Michael Ford and Spencer Ware.  Lee simply needs to hit enough passes to keep the Bulldogs safeties honest, creating space at the second level for Ford and Ware.  A steady rushing attack coupled with the Tigers front seven should keep the cowbells quiet and the Tigers unbeaten.

Why MSU should win:  The Bulldogs fell behind early last week before correcting some mistakes and making a late push.  But for atrocious play-calling in the last 20 seconds of the game, Mississippi State may have pulled out a victory at Auburn.  The MSU defense is not as bad as it showed Saturday, and they certainly have enough talent to contain a vanilla LSU offense.  By eliminating the big plays (Auburn scored on 2 plays over 30 yards) Mississippi State will force Jarrett Lee to engineer sustained drives for LSU to score.  Offensively, Chris Relf has the ability to take over a football game.  He’s got the potential to put up 400 yards of total offense each week, especially with the emergence of Vic Ballard.  Reducing chunk plays for LSU while putting the game in Relf’s hands will have the cowbell nation clanging loudly well into Friday morning.

And the Winner Is…

My love for Dan Mullen is well known.  I want to take the Bulldogs.  All the intangibles are on their side tonight.  Road games in the SEC are brutally tough, and night games are even more difficult.  So … I’m going to take LSU.

Defying the odds, Les Miles appears to have his team focused on a run at SEC and BCS championships.  Jarrett Lee has shown maturity in the past 2 games, bolstered by the confidence that his defense can win the game.  Lee needs to not lose the game.  He will throw at least one interception tonight, but he will also make a critical third-down conversion in each half.  Ford and Ware will wear down the Bulldogs defense in the second half, and the LSU defensive line will eventually win the war of wills.  This has the markings of a slobber-knocker SEC showdown.  I think this will be a game that reminds us all why we love SEC football.  In the end, it’ll be a big road win for the Tigers.  LSU 23, Mississippi State 17

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