October 4, 2013 10:37:50 AM
1. Who is going to play quarterback at Mississippi State?
Senior quarterback Tyler Russell is medically cleared for contact, and MSU coach Dan Mullen has said up until Thursday night that Russell will start. However, on his radio call-in show Thursday night Mullen dropped a "you'll just have to wait and find out" line when asked who will start at quarterback against LSU. With Russell recovering from a concussion he suffered in a season-opening loss to then-No. 13 Oklahoma State, fans have gotten behind sophomore Dak Prescott as the starter. Prescott had successful performances against Alcorn State, Auburn, and Troy. Russell has lost six of his last seven starts.
2. Can LSU's defense avoid another bad performance in back-to-back games?
For the first time since 2009, LSU (4-1, 1-1) is near the bottom of the league (10th in the Southeastern Conference) in scoring defense (24.4 points per game). LSU coach Les Miles said Monday his coaches had a problem signaling in the defense to a young secondary, which led to big plays by Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray and to communication breakdowns in a 44-41 loss last week. "Without being very specific, those are places we can make improvement," Miles said. LSU allowed 494 yards to Georgia, the most in a SEC game since Arkansas had 513 in a 50-48 victory in triple overtime in 2007. LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis will have to find a way to bring pressure to help his secondary.
3. Will Dan Mullen defeat a top-10 opponent?
Mullen said Wednesday in the SEC media conference that his players don't remember or weren't around the program for prior devastating losses to LSU. However, MSU is 0-8 under Mullen against top-10 ranked opponents. LSU has won 13 straight, and 20 of last 21, against MSU. The last time MSU beat LSU was a 17-16 victory in 1999 in Starkville.
4. Can MSU get the ball to LaDarius Perkins more?
The senior tailback admitted Monday he has dealt with a lot of negative emotions this season trying to get healthy after suffering a foot injury against Oklahoma State. Perkins returned from an ankle injury at Auburn and had 50 all-purpose yards, including just 36 rushing, in the SEC opener. In a 62-7 blowout win over Troy, Perkins re-aggravated the injury in the first quarter.
5. Will MSU be able to pressure quarterback Zach Mettenberger?
Mettenberger has thrown 13 touchdowns, one more than he had in 13 games last season. He is second in the SEC and seventh nationally in that category. Mullen remembers having Mettenberger as a high school prospect at the Florida football camp when he was an assistant coach at the school. Mettenberger was 23 of 37 for a career-best 372 yards and three touchdowns against Georgia.
Players to Watch
Junior C Dillon Day
The MSU offensive line has had its two best weeks against Auburn and Troy. Day calls out the checks if the quarterback doesn't do it, and said practices have already been "at the highest physicality of the season" to prepare for LSU.
Senior DE Denico Autry
Autry said Wednesday that LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger is "just like any other quarterback (because) he stands back there and throws." To make that a truthful statement, Autry and his linemates will have to pressure Mettenberger, make him throw on the run, and create third-down situations.
Senior FB J.C. Copeland
Copeland is a wrecking ball in the backfield who takes pride in pancaking defensive linemen. While LSU tailback Jeremy Hill gets most of the acclaim running the ball, the 270-pound fullback is the engine behind the power game. He will take you straight to the football.
Junior DT Anthony Johnson
The only returning defensive lineman from last season is on the Bednarik, Nagurski, Outland, and Lombardi Award watch lists. He has 58 tackles, 15.5 tackles for loss, four sacks, and one interception in his career.
Numbers of the game
LSU's record under Les Miles following a loss.
LSU has more than 400 yards of total offense in each of its first five games for the first time in school history.
MSU coach Dan Mullen's record against top-10 opponents
Mississippi State receivers who have caught passes this season, which is tied for ninth-most in the country.
1. MSU offense gearing up for showdown with Texas A&M COLLEGE SPORTS
3. Jones leads new-look defensive line for top-ranked EMCC COLLEGE SPORTS
4. Heritage Academy hits critical stretch of schedule HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS
5. Youthful Pickens Academy gearing up for stretch run HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS