STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) — Dak Prescott’s rise to college football stardom started last season when the Mississippi State quarterback had one of the best performances of his career in a surprise victory over LSU in Death Valley.
The Bulldogs might need a repeat performance to knock off the Tigers again.
No. 25 Mississippi State (1-0) hosts No. 14 LSU (0-0) on Saturday in the first of what’s expected to be several premier Southeastern Conference Western Division showdowns this fall. The Bulldogs had lost 14 straight games to LSU before Prescott’s heroics last year, which included 268 yards passing, 105 yards running and three touchdowns.
A Mississippi State victory this time around wouldn’t be nearly as surprising. But it will still be very difficult.
“We have to do what we do well,” Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen said.
And the best thing the Bulldogs have going for them is still Prescott, who threw for 237 yards and two touchdowns in last weekend’s season opening victory over Southern Mississippi. LSU played just five minutes of its opener against McNeese State before it was canceled due to lightning.
Because of that, LSU has a little more information on Mississippi State than vice versa.
But the Tigers didn’t need any film to tell them Prescott’s really good. They’ve seen it up close and personal.
“With guys who are a little bit stronger and can run, you definitely want to wrap up,” LSU defensive end Tashawn Bower said. “… I just remember bringing him down (last year). He was a heavy guy and I was like, ‘Geez, this is a quarterback, really?'”
Things to watch when No. 14 LSU travels to face No. 25 Mississippi State
LSU’S HARRIS MAKES DEBUT: LSU QB Brandon Harris, who overtook Anthony Jennings as starter this offseason, will be making his second career start on Saturday. Receiver Travin Dural is hopeful the Tigers’ passing game will be much improved from last season: “We kind of have more of a feeling for each other. You can tell that we’ve been working and we’ve grown up a lot as a group.”
ALL EYES ON PRESCOTT: Senior quarterback Dak Prescott is the focal point of Mississippi State’s offense. LSU knows that quite well after Prescott accounted for 373 yards in Mississippi State’s upset win over the Tigers last year. Prescott is throwing to an experienced group of receivers, but has three new starters in front of him on the offensive line, including left tackle Rufus Warren.
LSU DEFENSE HAS NEW LOOK: Saturday’s game will be the debut for new defensive coordinator Kevin Steele, who was hired after John Chavis left for Texas A&M. Players say Steele has kept the same scheme, but has his own style of calling a game that relies on a lot of pressure. It’s also the first game for the defensive line under new line coach Ed Orgeron.
THE HOLLOWAY FACTOR: Mississippi State’s Brandon Holloway had a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the Bulldogs’ 34-16 win over Southern Mississippi last weekend. The 5-foot-8, 165-pound Holloway could be a factor on special teams or at running back, where he’s used as a change of pace behind 218-pound starter Ashton Shumpert.
FOURNETTE’S SECOND SEASON: LSU running back Leonard Fournette lived up to his considerable hype as a freshman in 2014 by running for 1,034 yards and 10 touchdowns. Now even more is expected from the 230-pound sophomore, who has shown the size and speed to dominate against SEC opponents.
AP Sports Writer Brett Martel in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, contributed to this story.
AP College Football website: http://www.collegefootball.ap.org