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Pre-game at Davis Wade Stadium - Many questions to answer as No. 10 Tigers come to Starkville



Matt Stevens


STARKVILLE - Welcome to Week 5 of the 2013 college football season. The Dispatch MSU Sports Blog will be LOOKING LIVE.....at Davis Wade Stadium as the Bulldogs (2-2, 0-1 in SEC) face No. 10 LSU (4-1, 1-0) (6:30 p.m., FSN South). 




NOTE: As always go ahead and refresh this blog post up to kickoff for the latest information on the game. 




Here's what we've always done to do for our pre-game blog: I'm going to give you the five major questions that will be answered on the field this evening two key players for both teams and a number to keep in mind. 




1. Who is going to play quarterback at Mississippi State? 


One has to assume Mississippi State fans are getting restless with this question over the last three weeks right? Well, MSU senior quarterback Tyler Russell is medically cleared for contact and his coach Dan Mullen has said up until Thursday night that Russell will start. However, on his radio call-in show Thursday night Mullen dropped a "you'll just have to wait and find out" line when asked about the starting quarterback. 


Over the last few weeks, with Russell on the sidelines battling concussion symptoms from the season opener loss to Oklahoma State, fans have clearly gotten behind the idea of starting sophomore Dak Prescott after successful performances against Alcorn State, Auburn and Troy. 


Russell has lost six of his last seven starts at MSU but MSU coach Dan Mullen has publicly stood by fifth-year senior saying Russell will start next week when the Bulldogs (2-2) host against No. 6 LSU. 


"Tyler (Russell) is our starting quarterback," Mullen said last week. "We plan on Tyler being the starter against LSU and going forward." 




2. Can LSU's defense avoid another bad performance in back to back games? 


For the first time since 2009, LSU (4-1, 1-1)is near the bottom of the league, 10th in the Southeastern Conference, in scoring defense after allowing 24.4 points per game. LSU coach Les Miles said Monday his coaches had a problem signaling in the defense to his youthful secondary and that led to big plays by Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray due to communication breakdowns in the Tigers' 44-41 loss last week. "Without much detail, I can just tell you there was a signaling issue and a player to player communication that there was difficulty in.," Miles said. "There was at least one player sideline difficulty.Without being very specific, those are places that we can obviously make improvement." 


The 494 yards allowed by LSU's defense Saturday was the most by the Tigers in a SEC game since Arkansas put up 513 in a 50-48 victory in triple overtime in 2007. LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis will have to find a way to bring pressure to help out his youthful secondary against a hot and cold MSU offense. 




3. Will Dan Mullen finally knock off a Top 10 ranked opponent? 


The MSU head coach said Wednesday in the SEC media conference that his players don't remember or weren't around the program for some of the previously devastating losses to LSU. However, the losses against the power programs of Alabama, LSU, Texas A&M and other Western Division foes begin to generate the questions again of if Mullen's MSU program going to come up with that signature upset? Coming into this weekend, MSU is 0-8 under Mullen all-time against Top 10 ranked opponents. LSU has won 13 straight and 20 of last 21 against MSU. The last time Mississippi State beat LSU came in 1999 when they posted a 17-16 victory in Starkville. 




4. Can MSU figure out a way to get the ball to LaDarius Perkins more? 


The Mississippi State senior tailback admitted Monday that he's dealt with a lot of negative emotions in his first month of play this season while trying to restore full health in a right foot and having defenses focus specifically on him. 


Perkins returned from a ankle injury at Auburn and finished with just 50 all-purpose yards including just 36 rushing yards in the SEC opener. 


In a 62-7 blowout win over Troy, Perkins was held out of action and therefore unable to enjoy a lot of his teammates' offensive explosion due to aggravating that same ankle injury in the first quarter when the game was still in doubt. 


"It was real tough selfishly to watch my teammates have a lot of success while I was unable to play but my job that night was to cheer on my guys," Perkins said. "Again, I have to believe my number will be called in a big spot again soon." 




5. Will the MSU defense figure out a way to pressure LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger? 


LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger has already surpassed his touchdown pass total for last year. In 5 games, Mettenberger has tossed 13 touchdown passes, one more than he threw in 13 games a year ago. His 13 TD passes rank second in the SEC and seventh nationally. Mullen remembered having him as a high school prospect to his football camp at the University of Florida and thinking he was an elite talent five years ago. Mettenberger is coming off a 44-41 shootout loss at Georgia where the former Georgia quarterback threw for a career-best 372 yards on 23-of-37 passes with three touchdowns. 


"Don't mistake this - they still are a power running team," Mullen said. "They have two NFL wide receiver with a NFL quarterback with a big arm that can get them the ball. It's a dilemma of how do you stop the power run and then make sure they're not getting out to the perimeter. When you leave them one on one, they're very dangerous in the pass game." 




Players to Watch 








Junior C Dillon Day 


The MSU offensive line have had its two best weeks of play in its last two contests against Auburn and Troy. Day is responsible for calling out the checks if the quarterback doesn't do it himself and said practices have already been "at the highest physicality of the season" in order to prepare for LSU's defensive line. 




Senior DE Denico Autry 


Autry said Wednesday that LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger is "just like any other quarterback (because) he stands back there and throws". In order to make that a truthful statement, Autry and his lineman teammates will have to find a way to pressure and make Mettenberger throw on the run out of the pocket to create third down situations. 










Senior FB J.C. Copeland 


Copeland is a wrecking ball in the backfield for the Tigers who takes pride in pancaking defensive linemen. While LSU tailback Jeremy Hill gets all the acclaim for running the ball, if you want to find out where LSU is directing its power game then follow the 270 pound fullback and he'll take you straight to the football. 




Junior DT AnthonyJohnson 


The only returning defensive lineman from last season is on the Bednarik, Nagurski, Outland and Lombardi awards watch lists. He has accumulated 58 tackles, 15.5 tackles for loss, four sacks and one interception in his career. 




Numbers of the game 






LSU's all-time record under Les Miles following a loss. 






LSU has recorded over 400 yards of total offense in each of its first five games, which is a first in school history. 






MSU coach Dan Mullen's all-time record against Top 10 ranked opponents 






Number of different Mississippi State receivers that have caught a pass this season, which is tied for ninth-most in the country.   




All of the Dispatch MSU Sports Blog readers: feel free to follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/matthewcstevens for up-to-date Mississippi State coverage.



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