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No. 5 LSU can't look past rejuvenated Mississippi State

Sports Xchange
17 Oct 2018, 10:03 GMT+10

No. 5 LSU will get an open date next week, but first it has to contend with rejuvenated No. 22 Mississippi State in an SEC game on Saturday in Tiger Stadium.

The Bulldogs (4-2, 1-2) are coming off their open date, which followed a 23-9 victory over then-No. 8 Auburn.

"I think there was a lot of positive momentum heading into our bye week," State first-year coach Joe Moorhead said.

LSU (6-1, 3-1) has a lot of positive momentum after a 36-16 victory against then-No. 2 Georgia last Saturday.

It also remembers last year's meeting against State in which the Bulldogs blasted the Tigers, 37-7, in Starkville, Miss., the most lopsided loss for LSU since Ed Orgeron took over as head coach four games into the 2016 season.

"They out-physicaled us," Orgeron said.

The Tigers did the same thing to Georgia last week.

LSU was balanced on offense, rushing for 275 yards and passing for 200, but it wasn't as balanced as it is for the season. The Tigers (6-1, 3-1) have rushed for 1,415 yards and passed for 1,415 yards.

"We have different weapons," Orgeron said. "We're running from a spread, can spread the ball around. But it all starts up front."

LSU has developed a one-two rushing punch with Nick Brossette, who had more than 100 yards in each of the first two games, and Clyde Edwards-Helaire, who more than 100 yards in two of the last four, including 145 yards against Georgia.

"They do different things," Orgeron said. "We have different packages for each of them. I would see them as equal now."

Brossette is more a between-the-tacklers runner and Edwards-Helaire is more of an outside runner, though Orgeron said both can handle both.

"I think they have a lot of confidence in their run game right now," Moorhead said. "I think both backs run with great pad level. They fall forward, and I really think 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."

State isn't as balanced, but it looks like its bread-and-butter, the running game, is getting better.

The Bulldogs struggled in the run game in consecutive losses to Kentucky (56 yards) and Florida (104) yards before turning things around against Auburn, rushing a season-high 57 times for a season-high 369 yards.

"They switched up their offense a little bit against Auburn," Orgeron said, "dominant effort by them."

Quarterback Nick Fitzgerald had season-highs of 28 carries and 195 yards and scored two touchdowns. Kylin Hill added 146 yards on 23 carries.

Last season against LSU, Aeris Williams rushed for 146 yards and Fitzgerald rushed for 88 yards and two touchdowns.

"He is a very dangerous runner," Orgeron said of Fitzgerald. "He can pick and choose his holes. He likes to run them between the tackles -- big, strong, quarterback.

"We watched his runs especially against Auburn. He's very dangerous. He can get up the field, can make you miss, very smart with the football, makes decisions."

Moorhead has tried to upgrade the Bulldogs' passing attack, but it hasn't worked thus far. Fitzgerald is completing just 49.6 percent of his passes and State ranks 104th in the country with an average of 190 passing yards per game.

"At this point, if they say you're going to carry the ball 45 times and we're going to win the game, then by all means give it to me and I'll go run," Fitzgerald told the Jackson Clarion-Ledger.

LSU is coming off a game in which it held Georgia's SEC-leading run game to 113 yards, less than half of its average of 245.

"There's going to be a point in time when we're either behind or defenses are doing a good job stopping the run and we're going to have to use the pass game to be successful," Moorhead told the Clarion-Ledger. "I hope our identity is one where we're able to put points on the board regardless of how the ball got there. We'll gravitate more towards what's working best."

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