Mississippi State (2-0) faces LSU (1-1) in a duel between SEC foes. The Bulldogs are coming off a 39-17 victory over unranked Arizona where QB Will Rogers threw for 302 yards and 4 touchdowns.
LSU, meanwhile, easily dispatched Southern 65-17 after a disappointing season opening loss to Florida State. Can Kelly’s Tigers end Mississippi State’s undefeated season? Their odds to do so are found below, as well as picks, predictions, and key matchups.
Mississippi State vs. LSU Odds
The spread currently stands at around +2.5 LSU, so there isn’t much room for error. Mississippi State is the more talented team, but LSU holds a tremendous home field advantage. In terms of hostile, loud stadiums, Death Valley ranks in the top tier. The over under is set at 53.5 total points, which is smaller than Mississippi State’s previous two games.
Mississippi State vs. LSU Prediction & Pick
The best bet is Mississippi State covering the spread, but their moneyline isn’t terrible at around -130 odds. Mississippi State QB Will Rogers has posted 763 passing yards and a 9:2 touchdown to interception ratio. For the 59 quarterbacks who have 70+ dropbacks, PFF grades Rogers as the 8th best passer.
He can exploit LSU due to his multitude of weapons and offensive scheme. Dillon Johnson excels as a pass catching running back who runs efficient routes, but he also fights for yards after contact on designed runs. Rara Thomas is a yards after catch threat, and 6’5” Caleb Ducking will win his solo red zone matchups.
Mike Leach’s Air Raid offense is optimal for Rogers’ accuracy and his receiving talent. Mississippi State will often run a hurry up offense combined with a 10 Personnel Package (1 RB, 4 WR). They won’t take a plethora of deep shots, but Rogers will hit short and intermediate passes and allow his weapons to perform in space.
I expect LSU’s defense to struggle and be gassed in the 4th quarter. PFF grades them as 79th out of 131 teams in pass coverage; their linebackers and cornerbacks won’t be able to stick with Mississippi State. They were also graded 105th in tackling, which doesn’t bode well since tackling in space is crucial to limiting the Air Raid offense. Look for Mississippi State’s offense to hang a considerable amount of points on LSU.
Defensively, the Bulldogs can load the box against run happy QB Jayden Daniels and force him to thrive solely through the air. Because Mississippi State possesses an excellent secondary, they can hold up in isolation enough to stop LSU from matching Mississippi State’s explosive offense. Overall, Mississippi State matches up well against LSU along with owning the talent advantage.
Mississippi State vs. LSU Key Matchups
If Mississippi State can win both of the following critical matchups, then they will convincingly cover against LSU.
Mississippi State Pass Rush vs LSU RG & RT
Mississippi State’s pass rush hasn’t been disruptive, but LSU’s deficient pass protection opens the door for the Bulldogs to generate consistent pressure against QB Jayden Daniels. Per PFF, the LSU RG or RT are at least partly responsible for 52.9% of the total number of dropbacks when under pressure. For the 103 teams with 10+ dropbacks under pressure, that was the 18th highest percentage. Will Mississippi State place their best pass rushers against the right side and attempt to exploit this weakness?
Daniels is right-handed, so he will see the pressure coming. However, it will force Daniels to run to his left into an awkward throwing situation. He’s already not the most accurate quarterback, and pressure will further deteriorate LSU’s passing offense. The following clip against Arizona displays this sequence perfectly and its consequences.
Dawgs Taking Over In Arizona Territory thanks to @emmanuelforbes7‼️
— Mississippi State Football (@HailStateFB) September 11, 2022
Dillon Johnson vs LSU linebackers
RB Dillon Johnson is tied 2nd on the team in targets. Because he shines as a receiver out of the backfield, the Bulldogs will manufacture touches for him in the flat. Rogers can escape pressure or a broken play and gain valuable yards by dumping the ball to Johnson.
LSU linebackers must constantly mark him and limit his yards after the catch. If the Tigers can shut down Johnson’s involvement in the passing offense, then Rogers won’t have his safety blanket. Subsequently, LSU would stand a greater chance at restricting Mississippi State’s deadly offense.