Les Miles refused to flat-out name a starting quarterback for No. 20 LSU’s game against Mississippi State on Saturday night, but apparently, that doesn’t matter much to Dan Mullen.
The SEC showdown between the two Western rivals is about 48 hours away. The odds-on favorite to start under center for LSU is Danny Etling, who relieved Brandon Harris after two drives last weekend against Jacksonville State and came through with a 6-of-14 passing night for 100 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
Miles has yet to officially anoint Etling the starter for Week 3, but strongly implied that the junior quarterback will get the nod. Mullen seemed unfazed when asked about it during the SEC Teleconference on Wednesday, indicating that it’s more about what his defense does to slow down whichever quarterback is thrown out there Saturday.
“I’ll be honest … it doesn’t matter who they put at quarterback,” Mullen said. “We’ve got to get pressure on them. They’ve got such great wide receivers… out on the edge and such big-time playmakers. Whoever plays at quarterback, we’ve got to get pressure on them.”
Harris was removed from the game against Jacksonville State after completing 1 of 4 passes for 8 yards. That slow start followed his 12-of-21 afternoon in a Week 1 loss to Wisconsin at Lambeau Field in which Harris threw for a touchdown and 2 interceptions.
More significantly, the LSU offense under Harris converted 2 of 10 third downs against the Badgers. Harris led the offense to two three-and-outs to open the Jacksonville State game.
Etling, conversely, helped LSU successfully convert three consecutive third downs after taking over the offense.
That puts Etling on the fast track to receive the first snaps of the game against Mississippi State — and all of the pressure that Mullen hints is on the way.
“I can’t imagine Danny Etling won’t take the first snaps, but we’re going to let that play out,” Miles said earlier on the teleconference.
The evidence is strong that Etling will make his first career start for the Tigers against the rival Bulldogs. It would be his first action against an SEC foe.
Mullen appears content to throw the house at LSU’s quarterback regardless of whether it’s Etling or Harris. The biggest test for Etling is whether he can show the same composure on Saturday that he did last week.
Sam Spiegelman covers LSU football recruiting for SECCountry.com. Follow him on Twitter for the latest on who’s on their way to play in Tiger Stadium.