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Bulldogs, Tigers Set for Starkville Showdown

By BJ Bennett
SouthernPigskin.com
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A unique contrast of styles and a powerful matchup of strengths, the Bulldogs and Tigers are set to put on a show.

Saturday night's clash between Mississippi State and LSU may be one of the SEC's most compelling games of the season. A unique contrast of styles and a powerful matchup of strengths, the Bulldogs and Tigers are set to put on a show. The winner will gain some early traction as a potential contender to Alabama out west.

Mississippi State slots eighth nationally in scoring offense, averaging 53 points per game after lopsided wins over Charleston Southern and Louisiana Tech. The 57 points scored in Ruskin last weekend were the most for the Bulldogs in a road contest since 2011. Dual-threat quarterback Nick Fitzgerald, who scored 37 times a year ago, already has eight total touchdowns this season. Fitzgerald and running back Aeris Williams both topped the 100-yard rushing mark in week two.

LSU, allowing less than 170 yards per game, ranks in the top five in college football in total defense. In a pair of games, the Tigers have given up just one touchdown, a fourth quarter score this past Saturday once the outcome was already decided. Most specifically, LSU has allowed the fewest rushing yards in power five football and the second-fewest in the country at 63. The Tigers have surrendered just two rushing plays of over ten yards and have also compiled eight total sacks.

Star power, in this one, will be on clear display. Fitzgerald could use a big performance against a name program like LSU as a potential springboard into the Heisman Trophy conversation. The Tiger defense is poised to get a major boost in the return from injury of dynamic edge-rusher Arden Key, the SEC's per-game sack leader in 2016. Key had two sacks and a forced fumble against Mississippi State last fall. In Fitzgerald and Key, two of the league's biggest stars will be under the bright lights.  

Furthermore, the Bulldogs boast a top six total defense ranking nationally and the Tigers feature one of the nation's top backs in the dynamic Derrius Guice.

The last three meetings in the series have come down the wire: a three-point and a two-point win for the Tigers and a five point victory for the Bulldogs. A statistical comparison would suggest more of the same.      

In a key early-season divisional pairing, the framework for a fascinating game is in place.

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is SouthernPigskin.com's founder and publisher. He is the co-host of "Three & Out" with Kevin Thomas and Ben Troupe on the "Southern Pigskin Radio Network". Email: bj@espncoastal.com / Twitter: @BJBennettSports