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Arden Key is back and ready to cause more problems for Mississippi State quarterbacks.

LSU-Mississippi State score predictions: SEC Country picks

Alex Hickey

LSU owns Mississippi State. This is what history tells us, and history would never lie.

However, recent editions of the series have been much closer than LSU’s all-time 73-34-3 record against the Bulldogs would indicate. Last year felt like a blowout in the making, but somehow the Bulldogs had the ball with a chance to win in the final minute despite trailing 23-6 only 5 minutes prior.

In 2015, the last trip to Starkville, the Tigers eked out a 21-19 win. The year before that, Dak Prescott led the Bulldogs to their first win over LSU since 1999. Prescott may be in Dallas now, but since he graced Mississippi State with his presence the tenor of the rivalry has changed.

This year’s game seems poised to continue the recent trend of LSU-Mississippi State nailbiters. SEC Country writers Alex Hickey, Nick Suss and Sam Spiegelman and “One Team, One Podcast” host Carter “The Power” Bryant offer their predictions for the LSU-Mississippi State game.

Nick Suss: LSU 31, Mississippi State 21

LSU has the best rushing defense in the SEC. Mississippi State has the best passing defense in the SEC. They’re both ranked in the top 15 nationally in scoring defense. The last thing anyone would expect between these two teams is a shootout. But that’s what I’m picking.

After two weeks of playing it safe, Saturday should be Matt Canada’s coming-out party, his first chance to show off the full extent of his wacky spread packages. Expect big games from Derrius Guice and D.J. Chark as LSU shows off an offense that’ll be unrecognizable to most fans.
On the other side, Nick Fitzgerald will be trying to erase the worst performance of his career from last season against LSU. The quarterback should be able to carve yardage out of LSU’s inexperienced defense chunk by chunk in the first half, before defensive coordinator Dave Aranda adjusts the scheme and slows Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen’s spread attack.

Sam Spiegelman: LSU 33, Mississippi State 21

Mississippi State has dominated the early portion of its schedule, racking up 106 points while holding the opposition to 21 points, all via Louisiana Tech in last week’s victory.

Nick Fitzgerald presents a new sort of menace to LSU’s stout defense with his dual-threat abilities, but Dave Aranda has a new yet familiar weapon at his disposal in the form of Arden Key. Paired with star freshman K’Lavon Chaisson and a healthy Corey Thompson, expect Aranda to counter Fitzgerald’s mobility with blitzes to keep Fitzgerald out of his comfort zone and put the Tigers secondary in a position to capitalize.

The bigger test is for LSU’s offense, which is set to face an underrated Mississippi State defense that’s ranked No. 6 in total defense and No. 13 in scoring defense. Is this the game Matt Canada opens up the playbook and gets creative? It may have to be in order to leave Starkville with a win.

Carter “The Power” Bryant: LSU 26, Mississippi State 21

This is one of the toughest LSU games I’ve ever predicted. Both are youthful teams that have had easy schedules thus far, so it’s tough to gauge how well they will handle the pressure of a meaningful opponent.

Mississippi State color commentator Matt Wyatt made an excellent point on our podcast about how LSU quarterback Danny Etling or Bulldogs QB Nick Fitzgerald have yet to get creamed by a pass rush, so how they respond to pressure will be key. I’m giving LSU a slight advantage here because its secondary will smother the Mississippi State receivers and Guice will break free. But the Bulldogs have a better quarterback and head coach, plus they are at home. A 7-point spread is too many points to swallow.

Alex Hickey: LSU 20, Mississippi State 17

Are you familiar with the Tessitore Effect?

When ESPN play-by-play man Joe Tessitore is behind the mic, anything can and will happen in a football game. If you told me it was an actual NCAA bylaw, I would believe it.

Anyway, Tessitore has the call in Starkville on Saturday night, so prepare for this thing to be decided late in the fourth quarter. That can be good or bad for LSU. Remember the bananas fake field goal against Florida in 2010? Yep, that was Tessitore. On the flip side, remember when Ole Miss beat LSU at the gun in 2013? Yep, also Tessitore.

Along those lines, keep this in mind: State has struggled just as much as LSU in the kicking game this year. More, actually, with two field goals and two extra points getting blocked. The Bulldogs can take as they give, though, blocking a PAT of their own against Louisiana Tech.

So if this game comes down to a last-second kick — which I think it might — hold on to your butts. Anything could happen.