Advocate sportswriter Scott Rabalais had a live chat Thursday with online readers about LSU going into their SEC game this weekend against Mississippi State. Here are some of the highlights:
Q: What's going to change about LSU's defense this go-round against QB Dak Prescott?
A: Dak Prescott shredded LSU's defense in last year's game, throwing for 268 yards and two TDs and rushing for 118 yards and another score. He was operating behind an experienced O-line that has been largely rebuilt, so LSU should have more success getting pressure on him. Maybe just as importantly, the Tigers can't let him freelance too much. Containing him will be the key, a big responsibility for ends like Lewis Neal and Tashawn Bower and OLBs Lamar Louis and Deion Jones. I'd rather make Dak throw than let him loose to run.
Q: How big of a deal is it if LSU loses this weekend?
A: It's a hugely pivotal game for LSU. If the Tigers lose, they're staring an 0-2 start overall and SEC-wise in the face with Auburn visiting next week. If that happens, you're basically playing spoiler the rest of the year, which is not a spot LSU is used to finding itself in anymore. To stay relevant in the SEC West, LSU needs to at least split these first two games. If LSU can win both, the Tigers have a great chance to be unbeaten when they go to Alabama on Nov. 7. That makes LSU relevant nationally again. The Tigers are teetering a bit right now from a national perspective, in my opinion, as a national power.
Q: Southern Miss. gave Miss. State all they wanted, and LSU's speed on defense is so superior over Southern Miss. I don't think Miss. State will be able to keep up. What's your thoughts?
A: I tend to agree. I was surprised, frankly, to see State in the AP Top 25 this week. People are giving State a lot of credit for last year and for what kind of program Southern Miss traditionally has been. Lately the Golden Eagles have been abysmal, unfortunately for them. USM had a chance to take a 17-14 halftime lead after a long pass and got zip. LSU's talent is far superior to USM's. Frankly, LSU's talent across the board should be superior to State's. The joker in the deck is Dak. He can cover up for a multitude of shortcomings in other areas.
Q: Is LSU's best shot to win Saturday to ride Leonard Fournette and keep Miss. State offense off the field?
A: The old sayings are old because they're usually true, and one of the oldest is the best defense is a good offense. While LSU had its struggles on offense last year, the Tigers averaged just over 33 minutes time of possession per game. That was right around fourth in the nation if I recall. So while LSU will want to get the passing game in gear - improvement there is a must - staying committed to the power run is also very important. Every minute Prescott doesn't have the ball in his hands is huge for the Tigers' defense. I'm willing to bet LSU won't throw on three successive downs the whole night - not a big gamble as far as LSU goes, but you see where I'm going with this.