Mississippi State football opens up its SEC schedule this Saturday vs. the LSU Tigers. Mississippi State is the early favorite, but it’s never easy to go to Death Valley and win. Bulldog fans know the vibe around Starkville, but this week, I caught up with Death Valley Voice’s Gabe Henderson, to get to learn more about the vibes around Baton Rouge.
Head coach, Brian Kelly is 1-1 after two games. What are the vibes around the first-year head coach?
The vibes around Brian Kelly are still very good in Baton Rouge. The Tigers had a serious shot at beating Florida State and getting the Kelly era off right, but a couple of serious errors prevented that from happening. Regardless, every LSU fan knows that this is largely a year where Kelly will right the wrongs done to the program by Ed Orgeron. The program that the former Fighting Irish frontman inherited was an absolute disaster. All of that being said, there is a belief that the Tigers can still have a pretty successful eight-win season if they can put it all together.
Jayden Daniels has looked good from the outside looking in. Do LSU fans like the idea of Daniels being THE guy?
A lot of people were skeptical of Jayden Daniels against Florida State—I was not one of them. He showed everyone in those last few minutes against Florida State that with some help from the weapons around him, Daniels can legitimately be one of the SEC’s best quarterbacks. He’s such a dynamic playmaker, and he’s so different than the dual-threat quarterbacks that have come through LSU in the past. Long story short, if Daniels continues to play well, he’ll be accepted as the guy around Baton Rouge.
What does Mississippi State have to do to stop the LSU offense?
Rush the passer. Florida State gave the LSU offensive line a lot of problems during Week 1, which in turn forced Daniels to scramble for a lot of the game. Some personnel changes have the Tigers’ line looking a lot better now, but this new-look line still has yet to be tested. If Mississippi State can get into the backfield quickly, it’ll force Daniels to rely on his legs to make plays. While that can be a huge problem for opposing defenses, it’s the lesser of two evils as far as opponents are concerned when the other option is having Kayshon Boutte run rampant.
Jayden Daniels is obviously the playmaker for the Tigers, but who else do we need to be on the lookout for?
LSU has—what I believe is—one of the best receiver groups in the country. Kayshon Boutte is among the Biletnikoff Award favorites. Malik Nabers has the ability to break off a big play at any time. Jack Bech is an excellent slot option. Chris Hilton Jr., Jaray Jenkins, Kyren Lacy, and Brian Thomas Jr. are also able to fill in on any given play. When playing the Tigers, teams just have to accept the fact that they don’t have enough depth at defensive back to contain the LSU wide receivers. All of that being said, running back Armoni Goodwin is a guy I’d be watching out for on Saturday. LSU Offensive Coordinator Mike Denbrock really tried to get the running game going last weekend and Goodwin emerged as the lead back on the evening. John Emery Jr. will return from suspension too, but don’t be surprised if Goodwin is heavily involved in the Tigers’ offensive game plan.
LSU’s defense seems to have playmakers all over the place. Who would you name as the leader of the defense this year?
BJ Ojulari, who wears the sacred No. 18, is undoubtedly the biggest presence on the defense. He was given the jersey as a sign of his leadership, work ethic, and talent. Ojulari is a nightmare for any offensive line, especially at the JACK position in Matt House’s complex defense. Jay Ward is also an under-the-radar leader, as well. The senior safety has been phenomenal this season when leading a position group full of transfer defensive backs.
Mississippi State opened up as a 2-point favorite vs. the LSU Tigers. What do you think is going to happen in Death Valley on Saturday? Prediction and all.
I think LSU is going to come out pissed off. The Tigers allowed the Bulldogs to throw for over 600 yards against them last time out at Tiger Stadium (thanks, Bo Pelini), which in turn ruined the 2019 National Championship flag-raising celebration in Baton Rouge. I think even though almost everything about the program is different than it was two seasons ago, the players who were on the other side of that defeat won’t let that happen again. Mississippi State has to face Death Valley at its loudest, so that’ll cause problems for those visiting Baton Rouge for the first time. LSU’s riding the high of an all-around great win over Southern. I’ll take the Tigers in a close one, maybe 31-26—these games are always incredibly close.