No. 5 LSU dominated No. 22 Mississippi State 19-3 Saturday night in Baton Rouge, in one of the most dominating performances of the season. LSU's defense held Mississippi State to just 260 total yards, 59 passing yards and gave very little room for Bulldogs quarterback Nick Fitzgerald to move throughout the night.
Tigers quarterback Joe Burrow was efficient, going 16-of-28 passing for 129 yards, Nick Brossette and Clyde Edwards-Helaire combined for 103 rushing yards and the defense posted up in the Bulldogs backfield all night to send the Tigers to 7-1 (4-1 SEC). The Bulldogs fell to 4-3 (1-3 SEC) with the loss.
What are the important takeaways from the game?
1. LSU can make most teams play LSU's game. Through eight games, one thing is apparent about this year's Tigers: they can win every game that's played inside a phone booth. The defense, led by linebacker Devin White and defensive backs Greedy Williams and Grant Delpit, isn't just capable of winning games, it routinely dominates games. Because of that, they're 7-1 and heading into the Alabama game with SEC West, SEC and College Football Playoff aspirations.
Even in the loss to Florida, the Tigers played their style of football. The Gators just did it better.
The unknown, however, is if Burrow and the Tigers offense can throw to win football games when it has to, not just when it wants to. They entered Saturday with the third-worst passing offense in the country at 202.1 yards per game, and underperformed in the blowout win. For the most part, Burrow is a game-manager who makes smart plays, not explosive plays.
The good news for LSU is that path has led to this point -- an impending showdown with top-ranked Alabama and its video-game offense that can strike from any point on the field.
2. Mississippi State needs a quarterback change. Mississippi State basically ran into a brick wall all night. Quarterback Nick Fitzgerald and running back Kylin Hill are the Bulldogs offense, and they only do work on the ground.
Fitzgerald was 8-of-24 for 59 passing yards and four interceptions, and first-year coach Joe Moorhead didn't even bother trying to stretch the field when his team needed it most. That not only shows a lack of trust, but it shows a lack of options.
The problem for Moorhead and the Bulldogs is that there is an option -- sophomore Keyton Thompson. He threw for 364 yards and five touchdowns in the season-opener vs. Stephen F. Austin, and managed the TaxSlayer Bowl well last year against Louisville. As crazy as it sounds to bench the SEC's career quarterback rushing leader in favor of a young player with little experience, Moorhead has to at least consider it.
After all, the game plan against Mississippi State is simple -- stack 11 in the box and take your chances. It'll most likely pay off.
3. Devin White's targeting call was huge. The biggest play of the game came in garbage time, and has little to do with LSU's win over Mississippi State, and more to do with the game in two weeks.
Late in the fourth quarter, White was called for targeting on Fitzgerald on a very questionable call. Granted, honing in on the definition of targeting is one of the most challenging exercises in college football, but this one was very questionable. OK, it was bad. Very bad.
Now White -- the unquestioned leader of LSU's stellar defense -- has to sit for the first half of the Alabama game in two weeks. Good luck, defensive coordinator Dave Aranda.
4. LSU deserves this break. The Tigers have run quite the gauntlet through eight games. Wins over Miami, Auburn, Georgia and Mississippi State -- all ranked teams at the time -- is a resume that not many teams can boast, even if you consider the loss to Florida.
Regardless of the actual merit of those opponents, that's big game after big game for a team that entered the season with enough pressure to fill Baton Rouge. That matters a lot, especially when LSU is heading into the bye week and preparing for the biggest game of the year.
It seems like every fan base has that one fan who creates the sign, "We Want Bama." Well LSU's players and fans mean it, want it and deserve it. They're battle tested -- and the fiercest battle is yet to come.
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