Saturday will be headlined by the first SEC game of the 2023 season going down in Starkville, Mississippi as No. 14 LSU meets Mississippi State in a border battle of West division foes. It’s been a fascinating start to the year for both teams heading into this Week 3 showdown.
The Tigers fell to No. 3 Florida State 45-24 in Orlando, Florida, in one of the biggest games of Week 1 over Labor Day weekend. They got back on the right track last week, boat-racing Grambling 72-10 in their home-opener. Quarterback Jayden Daniels was on point in the win as he finished with five touchdowns and averaged 11.2 yards per attempt. Does that vault him back into the Heisman Trophy race? Considering the competition, of course not. However, a similar outing against the Bulldogs might do the trick.
The Bulldogs topped Arizona in a 31-24 overtime thriller last weekend in Starkville, which pushed coach Zach Arnett’s record to 2-0 on the young season. However, the Wildcats did a solid job of keeping Mississippi State’s offense in check … which isn’t common against a Mississippi State team that has become known for its offensive prowess.
What should you expect Saturday afternoon? Let’s break down the game and make picks straight up and against the spread.
LSU vs. Mississippi State: Need to know
What’s up with LSU’s secondary? This will be the key to the game. The Tigers were lit up by Florida State quarterback Jordan Travis and the Seminoles wide receivers in Week 1, but gave up just 157 passing yards last weekend. Granted, it was against Grambling, but at the very least, it’s a step forward for the a unit that has been a point of concern since the start of the offseason. Coach Brian Kelly discussed the secondary during his press conference on Monday.
“Yes, we knew that we were playing new players back there and the challenges were going to be in developing players that had very little experience,” he said. “Talent is only one part of the equation. It’s about developing consistency and doing the little things that require playing at a high level such as tackling, leveraging the football and raking through the basket to get the ball out. I think all of those things were going to be a work in progress for us.”
Mississippi State quarterback Will Rogers can sling it. Will he find success on Saturday night or will LSU’s secondary take another step forward?
Will the real Mississippi State offense please stand up? Arnett pledged he will move away from the pure Air Raid and develop an offense geared more toward the specific strengths of his players. He has followed through on that promise through two games. Running back Jo’Quavious Marks has 250 rushing yards and three touchdowns on the ground through two games. Contrast that to last season when Mississippi State didn’t have a single game in which they rushed for more than 162 yards. The Bulldogs have proven they have the ability to pound the rock, but that might not be the best idea against an LSU front seven that is loaded with talent. It’ll be fascinating to see the offensive game plan that Arnett rolls out there.
Statement game: This is a statement game for both teams. If Mississippi State springs the upset, it’ll show that Arnett is on the fast track to success. After all, LSU won the division title last season and was considered a College Football Playoff threat heading into the season. Conversely, if LSU is able to win on the road in one of the most hostile atmospheres in the sport, it’ll calm the fears of Tigers fans who are still scarred from the disaster in Orlando two weeks ago.
How to watch LSU vs. Mississippi State live
Date: Saturday, Sept. 16 | Time: Noon ET
Location: Davis Wade Stadium — Starkville, Mississippi
TV: ESPN | Live stream: fubo (Try for free)
LSU vs. Mississippi State prediction, picks
Odds via SportsLine consensus
The Tigers will show the college football world that the hype bestowed on them prior to the season was warranted. Daniels will pick apart the Bulldogs secondary and the Tigers defense will bring enough pressure to force multiple mistakes from Rogers. Plus, the morning local time start will temper the enthusiasm inside Davis Wade Stadium. Pick: LSU -10
Which college football picks can you make with confidence in Week 3, and which underdogs will win outright? Visit SportsLine to see which teams will win and cover the spread — all from a proven computer model that has returned more than $2,500 in profit over the past seven-plus seasons — and find out.