PREVIEW: LSU offense vs. State defense

LSU QB Zach Mettenberger

TSD's Hunter Paniagua previews this Saturday's LSU-Mississippi State game when the Tigers are on offense.

Mississippi State isn't Alabama, but the Bulldog defense should provide a stiff challenge for an LSU offense that hopes to build off its most promising performance of the season.

Zach Mettenberger VS. THE BULLDOG SECONDARY

The Mississippi State secondary has a penchant for forcing turnovers. The Bulldogs have come up with 12 interceptions this season to help bolster a pass defense that has allowed 209.7 passing yards per game. The cornerback tandem of Johnathan Banks and Darius Slay has combined for eight interceptions and 26 passes broken up and defended. The Bulldog safeties aren't strangers to playing behind the line with Nickoe Whitley and Corey Broomfield totaling six tackles for loss.

Mettenberger and the LSU passing finally showed the promise that everyone had expected before the season started. The Tigers eclipsed 200 yards passing for just the third time this season against Alabama, with the other two instances coming against Idaho and Towson. The receivers had some early drops but showed surer hands late in the game. With Mettenberger likely having to throw in tight windows against the Bulldog secondary, the receivers must to continue to progress in gaining separation and maintaining possession.

MISSISSIPPI STATE VS. THE LSU GROUND GAME

At least statistically, the Bulldogs' biggest weakness on the defensive side of the ball comes in stopping the run. MSU ranks near the bottom of the SEC with 168.2 yards rushing allowed per game with almost 4.5 yards per carry conceded. The Bulldogs have a pair of 300-pounders on the interior of the defensive line in Josh Boyd and Curtis Virges. The two have combined for 29 tackles with 3.5 for a loss. Redshirt freshman middle linebacker Bernardrick McKinney leads the team with 73 tackles.

Freshman Jeremy Hill has firmly supplanted himself as LSU's No. 1 rusher, but how big a load can he handle? Hill carried the ball 29 times against Alabama but appeared to struggle with injuries toward the end of the game. LSU could certainly use some help from Michael Ford and Spencer Ware, who combined for just 26 yards on 10 carries last week.

THE TRENCHES

With Josh Williford struggling to return to the field, LSU will continue to go with Trai Turner at right guard, though he appears the better option regardless. The freshmen duo of Turner and Vadal Alexander on the right side has brought a sense of stability to the line and that has paid dividends on the field. LSU did allow five sacks in the last two games, so giving Mettenberger time in the pocket still has room for improvement.

Boyd and Virges' size should prove a challenge for LSU in terms of making room to run. But starting defensive ends Denico Autry and Kaleb Eulls have only recorded a pair of sacks between them.

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