It’s not only game week this week, but it’s the start of SEC football for the Mississippi State Bulldogs. The Mississippi State football team takes on the LSU Tigers on Saturday night in Death Valley. The Bulldogs opened up as a 2-point road favorite.
We like to be friends with our fellow SEC teams up until game time on Saturday. So, this week I caught up with a lifelong (4 years) friend, Zachary Junda. Zachary is the managing editor over at SB Nation’s andthevalleyshook.com.
Has everyone recovered from the first week of the season?
First off, how dare you. Second I suppose the rate at which you get over losing such a stupid game like Florida State depended on your preseason outlook for the 2022 Tigers. Personally, I felt the absolute best case scenario for LSU was 8 wins and if they got every single possible break they could hit 9. But some people felt LSU could go 10-2 and actually contend for a NY6 Bowl. Losing to a pretty mediocre Florida State team definitely tempered expectations if you had them. Mine weren’t nearly as high but it was still an idiotic way to lose a game. Great, now I’m mad again.
LSU has a win under their belt heading into Saturday’s game vs. Mississippi State. Do you expect LSU’s offense to carry over the momentum of 65 points into Saturday’s game?
The 65 points last week were a little deceiving. LSU scored a program record 37 points in the first and most of those were owed to getting short fields because of turnovers. LSU was also playing Southern and there’s a reason why these two had never gotten together on the football field previously. Southern and LSU are equals in the band world but not in football. LSU made some changes to the offensive line going into the Southern game and the unit definitely played better, but was that because they finally figured out the right lineup, or were they just beating up on lesser competition? LSU’s going to go with the same starting 5 Saturday so we’ll know for sure if the group has figured it out or not yet.
Quarterback, Jayden Daniels, hasn’t looked too shabby through two weeks of football. How do you expect him to play vs. his first SEC defense of the season?
I suppose it all comes down to how well his offensive line protects him. Daniels was LSU’s leading rusher against Florida State thanks in large part to him running for his life every single time he dropped back to pass. To the coaching staff’s credit, they changed both the offensive line and seemingly the entire passing philosophy and had Daniels going up-tempo in limited duty against Southern. The end result? Daniels was 10-11, 137 yards, and a pair of touchdowns plus an 18-yard rushing TD to boot. I’m not expecting another nearly flawless outing from Daniels on Saturday, but I am expecting his play to give LSU a chance to win.
I haven’t heard much about the LSU defense this year. Who is a player we need to be on the lookout for?
I would have said sophomore defensive tackle Maason Smith who was poised to have a breakout season in 2022. But Smith blew out his ACL in the first drive of the season against Florida State so that was a huge blow to the Tiger defense. So instead let’s go with Smith’s backup, Mekhi Wingo who transferred to LSU from Missouri. Wingo was a freshman All-SEC selection in 2021 and so far LSU hasn’t really felt Smith’s absence because Wingo’s playing that well in the interior.
The last time Mike Leach was in Death Valley his quarterback threw for over 600 yards. How does Brian Kelly look to prevent that?
Brian Kelly is going with an ancient but controversial method called “not having Bo Pelini anywhere near my football team.” To me, corner was by far and away the biggest question mark surrounding the LSU defense as the Tigers lost their top-four corners from last season (two to the NFL Draft, two to transfers) but so far the corners have held their own. Kelly needed an instant remedy and got it through the transfer portal picking up veteran guys like Jarrick Bernard-Converse, Mekhi Garner, Greg Brooks, and Sevyn Banks who will hopefully make his 2022 debut Saturday. LSU’s secondary may not have obvious first-round picks on the roster like a Derek Stingley or Jamal Adams on the roster, but you could do a whole lot worse rolling out a group consisting of nothing but multi-year starters from programs like Oklahoma State, Ohio State, and Arkansas.
Speaking of Brian Kelly, what are the early thoughts on him through two weeks
It’s still a weird pairing, and it probably won’t stop being weird for however long he’s here. But I’ll say this it feels like there’s an actual adult in charge and it hasn’t felt like that since Nick Saban left for the Dolphins nearly 20 years ago. I saw all your little jokes about Kelly after the Florida State loss and I’ll probably see the same jokes following every game he’ll lose as head coach at LSU. Best way to shut up all that noise is by winning and he’s done that everywhere he’s gone. I don’t expect that to change at a program like LSU.
Who is going to be the player that makes a difference in Saturday’s game?
If Kayshon Boutte’s engaged and getting the ball he’s the best player on either roster. LSU couldn’t quite get him going against Florida State and lost by 1. They went to him early and often against Southern and scored 65 points, 37 coming in the first quarter alone. The evidence speaks for itself.
I know the road team has won the last three meetings but I like that this game is in Baton Rouge and I think while LSU may not be as deep as Mississippi State, the top-end talent is good enough to make a difference and LSU wins a 23-21 type of game.