10/17/18 5:35 am CT
Good morning, Tiger Fans,
Coming off the most impressive win of Coach Ed Orgeron’s career as LSU’s coach, the No. 5 Tigers will look to avoid a let down and keep its season goals in sight when LSU hosts No. 22 Mississippi State this Saturday. The game is set to kickoff at 6 pm CT and will be televised by ESPN. A win this week would set the stage for an epic matchup with Alabama in what would likely be LSU’s biggest game since the 2011 National Championship, but LSU can’t afford to think ahead in the least bit. One look back at last year’s game in which Mississippi State dismantled LSU with a 30-point win in Starkville, and a glance at the stats below, make it easy to see that LSU must give this game it’s full attention.
As we do each game week, today we’ll take a look at how the two teams stack up statistically, but first a word on where each is coming from. LSU enters at 6-1 with wins over three top-10 opponents and its only loss coming in Gainesville over a very good Florida team. Mississippi State (4-2) enters the game well-rested after an open week, and before that they earned a very impressive 23-9 victory against then-No. 8 Auburn. Prior to that, they lost back-to-back games at Kentucky and against Florida.
• Overall, Mississippi State’s numbers on offense are “middle of the road” in the SEC. The Bulldogs only scored six and seven points in consecutive SEC losses to Kentucky and Florida, which significantly lowers their scoring average. Interestingly, Mississippi State is one of only two SEC teams that is averaging fewer passing yards per game than LSU. (The other is Kentucky.)
• Part of the reason Mississippi State has so few passing yards is that its running game has been very strong. The Bulldogs boast the SEC's top rushing offense (240.7) and their leading rusher is quarterback Nick Fitzgerald who is averaging 102.60 yards per game and 5.23 yards per carry.
• This is a matchup between two of the best red zone offenses in the conference. The Tigers are first in the SEC, while the Bulldogs aren’t far behind at third. Both teams score on more than 90 percent of their red zone trips. The big difference, however, is in red-zone touchdowns. The Bulldogs have reached the end zone in two-thirds (66.67%) of their redone trips, whereas LSU has scored touchdowns barely over half the time (51.5%).
• Where Mississippi State excels is on the defensive side of the football. The Bulldogs rank inside the top five in the conference in all major defensive statistical categories including scoring defense (1st at 12.7), total defense (1st at 289.7), rushing defense (2nd at 115.3) and passing defense (3rd at 174.3).
• A big reason for Mississippi State’s defensive success is its D-line, which is revered as one of the best units in college football. With pass protection being a problem at times for this LSU team, a Bulldog to watch is DE Montez Sweat. He’s coming off a career-best game against Auburn in which he accounted for three sacks, forced a fumble, and added two quarterback hurries that forced incomplete passes. Sweat leads the nation in sacks per game (1.25) and leads the SEC in total sacks (7.5).
• Sweat and DT Jeffrey Simmons have combined for a whopping 18.5 tackles for loss. In fact, here’s a crazy statistic — Mississippi State’s top four tackles for loss producers are defensive linemen. LSU’s offensive line will have its hands full, no doubt.
• Mississippi State has surprisingly caused only seven turnovers in six games so far this season. (By comparison, LSU has forced 15 turnovers in seven games.) But because the Bulldogs have only turned the football over four times, Mississippi State still has a positive turnover margin. All four of those turnovers have been interceptions, making the Bulldogs the only team in the FBS without a lost fumble.
• On special teams, LSU holds a distinct advantage in just about every category. The only category we charted where Mississippi State has an advantage is in kickoff returns, but they aren’t likely to get many chances there with the way LSU kicker Avery Atkins has been consistently kicking the ball into the end zone.
Now for some news on the recruiting front: LSU’s 2019 recruiting class took a hit yesterday when four-star cornerback Marcus Banks reopened his recruitment. Banks (6-0, 170, Houston) announced the news on social media with a tweet that read:
“After much thought and consideration, I have decided to re-open my recruitment. This was one of the hardest decisions of my life. Understand that there is no love lost with LSU but I have to do what's best for myself and my future. Please respect my decision.”
Banks had committed to LSU back in June over offers from several schools including Auburn, Texas A&M, and Alabama. And really, the latter probably has a lot to do with his decommitment. You might recall that in Saturday’s report I mentioned the significance of Banks being expected in to visit LSU since his recent visit to Alabama had a lot of folks concerned. Evidently, the concern was justified. I always hate to see a player of Banks’ caliber decommit, but if there’s a silver-lining here, it’s that it opens another spot in LSU’s class which was getting pretty tight with several positions of need still needing to be addressed. With Banks no longer on board, LSU’s 2019 class now contains 19 commitments with up to six more spots to fill. In a subsequent report, we’ll look at the biggest remaining needs and potential targets to fill them.
Now for some more news on the recruiting front – this one potentially more serious. According to Mark Schlabach of ESPN.com, “Attorneys for the defendants in a federal criminal case involving pay-for-play schemes and other corruption in college basketball attempted on Tuesday to introduce into evidence wiretap recordings that, according to the attorneys, suggested LSU coach Will Wade and Kansas assistant Kurtis Townsend were prepared to offer improper benefits to high-profile recruits and their families.” All I know about this is what I read in this article, but it is something I suspect we’ll hear more about in the coming days. Coach Will Wade is scheduled to speak this afternoon at 2:40 during the annual SEC Media Day event.
Moving on with other news… The one topic I heard from more than you about than any other yesterday was LSU being fined $100,000 by the SEC for fans storming the field Saturday. Several of you suggested that someone create a GoFundMe page to help cover the expense and you’ll be happy to know that someone already has. Congressman Garret Graves started one which you can contribute to using the link below. The post on Graves’ GoFundMe account says:
“LSU is an inclusive community. And we love our D1 sports! When 102,000 of us get together, we celebrate - and when we do, we leave nothing on the field. But sometimes, the field calls us back. On October 13th, LSU fans shared our gregarious exuberance with the Univ. of Georgia by returning to our field of dreams after 60 minutes of elite football to share joy with Tigers, Bulldogs and each other. This kind of joy is priceless, but to the SEC it is worth $100,000. To show our appreciation of this recognition, we’re calling on all Tiger fans to spread the love by contributing $36.16 to the Tiger Athletic Foundation so all of the SEC can share in our bliss. If every Tiger fan at the game or watching on TV gives this amount, we’ll be able to share similar delight with Alabama on November 3.”
Click here to access Congressman Garret Graves’ GoFundMe page. As of 5:30 this morning, the campaign has raised more than $13,000. What a gesture by Congressman Graves.
Hats off to LSU coach Ed Orgeron for being named the Dodd Trophy coach of the week. The award honors the football coach whose program embodies the award’s three pillars of scholarship, leadership and integrity, while also having success on the playing field during the previous week. “Coach Orgeron and the Tigers have compiled one of the most impressive resumes to date of any team in the country,” said Jim Terry, chairman of the Bobby Dodd Coach of the Year Foundation. “This was a statement win and LSU looks poised to be a true College Football Playoff contender this season.”
Before leaving the topic of football, here’s a quick word on yesterday’s practice. Multiple reports indicate that OG Garrett Brumfield was fully dressed out in pads on Tuesday and was working on individual drills by himself. Orgeron called him “very questionable” on Monday. NT Ed Alexander returned to practice after sitting out Monday. LT Saahdiq Charles and FB Tory Carter were in gold "no-contact" jerseys.
In baseball news, LSU has released its second weekly blog on Fall ball. You can read the whole thing here, but below are the highlights:
• Landon Marceau has distinguished himself as one of LSU’s top arms. He’s going to be shutdown for the rest of the fall, and after Eric Walker throws this week, he will be shut down too. The duo joins Zack Hess, Devin Fontenot and Todd Peterson on the bench to preserve their health for the 2019 season ahead. Those five have distinguished themselves as the top five pitchers at this point.
• With catcher Saul Garza out until the spring due to injury, junior college transfer Brock Mathis has been thriving behind the plate. Defensively, he’s been very sound and very vocal. Offensively, he was the Tigers’ second-leading hitter in Week 3, going 4-for-9 (.444) with two doubles and a RBI.
• LSU’s leading hitter last week was senior Antoine Duplantis with nine hits and five RBI. “What a difference it makes to have him back on our team,” Mainieri said of Duplantis. “He had four hits Sunday. Just having him again is going to be a huge thing for our team.”
• Another big difference maker LSU will have back this year is pitcher Eric Walker. “If you didn’t know he was hurt last year, you wouldn’t be able to tell it by watching the way he throws. He looks just like he did two years ago when he pitched so well for us,” Mainieri said. “He’s a great leader and a great competitor. It’s going to be great having Eric back.”
• The fall practice session will continue through November 4. All workouts at “The Box” are free and open to the public. The fall practice period will conclude with the Purple-Gold World Series on November 1, 2 and 4.
• Congratulations to four LSU Tigers who have been named to midseason All-American teams. The four are Devin White, Greedy Williams, Grant Delpit, and Cole Tracy. Here are the details on the well-deserved honors, including a brief look at each player’s impressive stats.
• Lastly, I’ve updated our Ticket Exchange with several new listings.