STARKVILLE, Miss. - Death Valley will be the site of Saturday night's pivotal Southeastern Conference Western Division showdown as the No. 21 Mississippi State Bulldogs (7-2, 3-2 SEC) and the No. 7 LSU Tigers (7-2, 3-2 SEC) battle to keep their BCS hopes alive.
Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. CT and will be broadcast nationally on ESPN. Those unable to catch the action on television can hear the game on the Mississippi State Radio Network or via Sirius Radio (Channel 85) and XM Radio (Channel 85).
State will be facing a tough Tigers team that will be looking to come back strong after a devastating loss to No. 1 Alabama. The Bulldogs will have to counter LSU's QB Zach Mettenberger, as well as the Tigers run game Saturday night in order to find success. For the Tigers, they will have to beat MSU's tenacious secondary that has thrived on turnovers all season long.
All-American Johnthan Banks will lead the hungry Bulldog defense that will be looking to revive itself after a tough two game stretch against some of the nation's top offenses. Banks, who was named a midseason All-American by four major publications, has intercepted four passes, forced a fumble, recovered a fumble and broken up five passes on the season. Teaming up with Banks will be senior All-SEC linebacker Cam Lawrence, who has turned on the jets in the latter half of the season. The Coldwater, Miss., native has posted double-digit tackles in four of five conference games, including 5.5 tackles for loss in his last three contests. Ranking ninth in the SEC with an eight tackle-per-game average, Lawrence is the only player in the conference ranked in the top 10 in both tackles and sacks.
On the offensive for the Bulldogs, they will need junior QB Tyler Russell to continue his record-breaking season and revive the MSU offense. The Meridian, Miss., native recently tied the single-season school record with his 16th touchdown pass of the season and is on pace to break the school's single-season records for completions, attempts and passing yardage. Russell is currently one of seven quarterbacks nationally with 15-plus passing touchdowns and three or fewer interceptions on the season.
Mettenberger, who is coming off of his best game in an LSU jersey last week against Alabama, will be the field general for LSU when their offense takes the field. Joining Mettenberger will be the dominant LSU running attack that has featured three running backs that have had at least two or more 100-plus rushing yard games this season. On the defensive, the Tigers run defense, which ranks third in the SEC, only allows 102.8 yards per game this season. A key for the Bulldogs will be to get going early and hit on all cylinders, as the Tigers have only allowed 19 points and 386 total yards in the first quarter this season.
The last time these two met, the Tigers fought tooth and nail to steal one from the Bulldogs, riding a ten point fourth quarter to win 19-6. The game was only field goals in the first half, as the Tigers went into the half up 6-3. A 42-yard field goal from Derek DePasquale tied the game at six, but the Tigers answered with a three-pointer of their own to go up 9-6 into the final 15 mintues. With 11:56 left in the game, LSU scored the lone touchdown of the game on a 19-yard pass from Jarrett Lee to Rueben Randle. A 29-yard field goal put the Tigers up by 13 and gave the Baton Rouge natives the victory.
After Saturday night's contest at LSU, the Bulldogs will return home to face the Arkansas Razorbacks, as the Maroon and White celebrate Senior Day and the final home game of the 2012 season. The game is set for an 11 a.m. CT kickoff and will be broadcast on ESPN and the Mississippi State Radio Network.