Smith on Sports: More to third Saturday in September

Danny P. Smith
Staff Writer

It’s about to get real serious in the Southeastern Conference.

With one key encounter in the Western Division and one in the Eastern Division, the third Saturday in September is taking on a very important meaning this season.

The game between Tennessee and Florida has always been a big deal at this time of the year in the East, but there’s no denying that Mississippi State and LSU stands as a key early matchup in the West.

There is just something about the SEC opener that has just a little bit more emphasis placed on it.

“Everything is different,” MSU head coach Dan Mullen said during his press conference on Monday. “(The players) are messed up if they need me to motivate them this week.”

The Bayou Bengals of Baton Rouge have provided a big early season challenge for Mullen’s Bulldogs in recent years. In his last eight seasons, Mullen has watched only one of his teams beat LSU. That one win in 2014 helped set up one of the best seasons in MSU history when it reached No. 1 in the nation and finished with records of 10-3 overall and 6-2 in the league with an Orange Bowl appearance.

When this year’s clash takes place in Starkville Saturday at 6 p.m., the Tigers come in as the ranked team at No. 12 in the Associated Press, but don’t go to sleep on the Bulldogs.

Granted it came against Charleston Southern and Louisiana Tech, MSU has played some of its best football in quite some time both offensively and defensively.

Both teams have played well on defense. LSU has only given up 10 points in two games and shut out BYU in week one 27-0. The Tigers top the SEC in total defense by giving up 169.5 yards per game, but the Bulldogs are third on the list by surrendering 174 yards per outing.

That means the potential is there for a good old heavyweight defensive Western Division battle on Saturday night at Davis Wade Stadium. If you like points, this may not be the game for you.

Also if the winning team has a margin of more than two touchdowns, it will be surprising to me.

A low-scoring, close game between MSU and LSU is what I'm expecting.

That's what makes the SEC so entertaining. No cupcakes here.

Danny P. Smith is the sports editor and columnist for The Starkville Daily News. The opinions in this column are his and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SDN or its staff.