October 16, 2018 9:53:16 AM
STARKVILLE -- Joe Moorhead has never coached against LSU's defensive coordinator, but he's seen the essence of Dave Aranda. That's how he knows what he's up against.
Mississippi State's head coach and primary playcaller battles wits with Aranda 6 p.m. Saturday (ESPN) and Moorhead knows the task won't be easy: the No. 5 Tigers rank 17th in the nation in scoring defense while allowing all of 3.45 yards per carry, good for fourth in the Southeastern Conference.
It's easy for Moorhead to respect Aranda's work: he saw the remnants of it when he was Penn State's offensive coordinator for the 2016 Big 10 championship game, the year after Aranda left Wisconsin for LSU (6-1, 3-1 SEC). Moorhead's Nittany Lions ran for 1.8 yards per carry but threw for 384 yards in a win.
"I think a thing a lot of top-notch defensive coordinators across the country like Dave Aranda, in a scheme like his, they understand how the offense is trying to attack them and why and works to take those things away," Moorhead said. "They know based on how people run how they're going to attack them and they have counterpunches. It's a combination of aggressiveness, scheme and in-game adjustments, which he does a really nice job of."
For more information -- particularly that which is pleasing to the eye -- the staff can turn on last year's meeting, when the Bulldogs beat LSU by 30. Moorhead cautions against using that film for too much.
"We always look at the personnel matchups and things like that, but you take it all with a grain of salt because it's a different year and different team," Moorhead said.
Penalties away from home
No. 22 MSU (4-2, 1-2 SEC) has committed 40 penalties; 27 of them have come in two road games. MSU is averaging 3.25 penalties per home game and 13.5 per road game.
Those numbers are not lost on Moorhead.
"Certainly presnap penalties are the biggest focus there. I think we've got that good and cleaned up the past few weeks," Moorhead said. "With the crowd noise, the atmosphere and the snap count, that's certainly something we're going to be mindful of.
"I think we've got the postsnap nonsense addressed and cleaned up."
Open week accomplishments
MSU's week without a game began as any week would: a Sunday practice working on corrections from the previous game. A regular off day for players Monday was spent on an extensive self-scout since there was no immediate opponent to game plan for. After a couple of practices -- focusing on special teams, technique and developing younger players -- the staff hit the road recruiting.
"We visited 108 schools and 20 games over nine states. The recruiting staff did a good job putting a plan together, got all of us out there, saw a lot of great players, a lot of great football in-state, in our footprint and in our national areas," Moorhead said. "We're real fired up about that from the recruiting part."
For once, MSU does not have any players it knows will not play its next game.
In the open week, Moorhead was cautiously optimistic about cornerback Jamal Peters' prospects for playing against LSU, but now Moorhead is more optimistic. Safety Stephen Adegoke (lower body), defensive back Brian Cole (upper body) and wide receiver Keith Mixon (ankle) are all day-to-day.
Moorhead said on Mixon that he is, "completely optimistic that he'll be ready to go for the game."
Another night game
For the fifth consecutive time this season, in as many opportunities, MSU will have a home game at night.
The SEC announced the times of the Week 9 games and MSU's home game against Texas A&M will be at 6 p.m. on ESPN.
Follow Dispatch sports writer Brett Hudson on Twitter @Brett_Hudson
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