BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — When the fifth-ranked LSU Tigers reflect on their most lopsided loss last season, it's not the color crimson that comes to mind.
No, it's a different shade of red — the maroon donned by the 22nd-ranked Mississippi State Bulldogs, who'll invade LSU's Death Valley on Saturday night.
Tigers coach Ed Orgeron, who was in his first full season a year ago, said he mentioned last season's 37-7 setback in Starkville , Mississippi, right after LSU had knocked off then-No. 2 Georgia last Saturday.
"We did not play very well against them last year," Orgeron recalled. "I know the players there. I tried to recruit a lot of those players. They're very good. They're hungry. They're physical. They're tough. They play hard."
LSU (6-1, 3-1 SEC) was listed as about a one-touchdown underdog against the Georgia Bulldogs and is now favored by about a touchdown against the Bulldogs from Mississippi State (4-2, 1-2). But the Tigers aren't putting much stock in the rankings or the odds. LSU has won three games as an underdog this season and the Tigers were a higher-ranked favorite when they fell at Florida .
Orgeron said his staff is "very concerned" about how the Tigers will match up with Mississippi State's stout defensive front and SEC-leading running game.
"I know what they did to us last year," Orgeron said. "There are some spots where we're really going to have to buckle up."
While Mississippi State is unlikely to overcome a two-game deficit to both LSU and Alabama in the SEC Western Division standings, the Bulldogs have an opportunity to move up the rankings and build their bowl resume under first-year coach Joe Moorhead. His team comes in rested; the Bulldogs had a bye after their convincing upset of then-No. 8 Auburn .
"We will have to play with fanatical effort and surgical precision to beat another top-ranked team in the country," Moorhead said. "There is tremendous parity in this league that on a weekly basis, if you don't prepare well and you don't come out and play hard and you don't execute at the highest level, any team can upset any team or beat any team. I think that has shown across the board for six weeks."
Some prominent story lines surrounding Mississippi State's 112th meeting with LSU:
GOING FOR IT
Orgeron is building a reputation for keeping the offense on the field on fourth-and-short following four such conversions in the Tigers' upset of Georgia last week.
"It's a game-plan thing," Orgeron said. "It's not going to be the same for Mississippi State. Obviously we're going to have to change our approach. They're going to be ready for it."
Moorhead said Orgeron's recent risk-taking demonstrates faith in his players.
"It is representative of how they are playing as a whole right now with a ton of confidence and playing to win rather than trying not to lose," Moorhead said.
A main reason Mississippi State is allowing fewer than 13 points per game is a defensive front anchored by end Montez Sweat and tackle Jeffery Simmons. Sweat has 18 sacks in 19 career games. Orgeron, a former defensive lineman and defensive line coach, said Simmons, who has 8 ½ tackles for losses, is "probably the best defensive tackle prospect in the country."
Each team features a formidable, multi-faceted ground game.
The Bulldogs are rushing for 240.7 yards per game, thanks in large part to dual-threat quarterback Nick Fitzgerald, whose 2,999 career yards rushing are the most ever by an SEC QB. Meanwhile, running back Kylin Hill ranks sixth in SEC in rushing (79 ypg) after running for 126 yards against Auburn.
The Tigers have been gratified by the emergence of two running backs who were previously unproven. Senior Nick Brossette ranks fifth in the SEC (91.4 ypg) and Clyde Edwards-Helaire rushed for a career-high 145 yards last week.
"Nick and Clyde are both leaders on our football team," Orgeron said. "We didn't know how good of a season they would have, but we always thought they were good LSU backs and they turned out to be really good."
If the game is a close, defensive struggle, LSU likes its chances with kicker Cole Tracy, a transfer from Division II Assumption College. He is 17-for-19 on field goals this season have going 5-for-5 last week, his second time kicking a school-record-tying five field goals in a game this season.
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