NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - LSU's matchup against Mississippi State is a lot bigger than anyone thought it would be at the start of the season. Sure, it's significance as the SEC opener was always there, but given the way the Tigers' offense performed through two games, every game will likely have a bit of the unknown. Thus, we've got three things to look out for Saturday night in Tiger Stadium.
1. LSU Quarterback Play
I couldn't justify writing this if quarterbacks weren't at the top of the list. Les Miles says Danny Etling will take the first snaps, but he's far from writing off junior Brandon Harris. By simple comparison to Harris, Etling looked a lot better in the second quarter against Jacksonville State. But as a whole, we haven't seen nearly enough to make a real judgment of the Purdue transfer. The SEC is a whole new beast, even for a veteran who started seven games for the Boilermakers.
On top of that, I could see Harris getting snaps just to give the Bulldogs a different look at some point and keep his seemingly fragile mental state from further shattering.
2. WR Malachi Dupre
It goes hand in hand with the play of the quarterback. If Dupre made some of the tough catches against Wisconsin, maybe LSU isn't even having a quarterback competition. He's gotten all the targets a Tigers' receiver could ask for, but he's done virtually nothing with them.
Even Miles was critical of Dupre's lack of "defense" on an interception thrown by Etling against Jacksonville State. Saturday is a great chance for Dupre to silence his critics. In two games against Mississippi State, he's totaled six catches for 142 yards and two touchdowns.
3. LSU defense vs. Nick Fitzgerald
The Tigers got a good look at a great runner at quarterback last week against Eli Jenkins and Jacksonville State last, and held up well. The only touchdown they gave up came via busted coverage, and while Jenkins tallied 82 yards, they limited his production for the most part.
Mississippi State's Nick Fitzgerald brings a different challenge and comes off one heck of a performance against South Carolina where he ran for a school-record 195 yards. The Tigers have dealt with the Bulldogs and their mobile quarterbacks before, but not even Dak Prescott put up rushing numbers like that.
I think a big part of how LSU's defensive unit performs depends on how long they're on the field. If the Tigers have their way offensively, they'll control time of possession and pound away with Leonard Fournette and Derrius Guice. Otherwise, it could be a long day for LSU's front seven.