Scooter Hobbs column: State will be telling game

Published 8:46 am Saturday, September 17, 2022

We still don’t really have a clue what kind of football team the LSUs have this season.

Nor have we seen any real shades of what the team’s identity is or will be.

That’s understandable. You’ve got a first-year head coach in Brian Kelly whose résumé suggests he knows what he’s doing, no matter the curious plans and decisions that were on display in the Superdome against Florida State.

Even while all but getting dominated by the Seminoles, it took one last unexplainable sideline gaff — not going for two with a chance to steal the game — to deny LSU on what Kelly surely hopes will be his team’s worst performance of the season.

Southern wasn’t much help last week. That exhibition (for practical purposes) seemed like more of a feel-good Disney movie in which LSU could do whatever it pleased without fear of reprisal.

But I would guess this week against Mississippi State in Tiger Stadium falls somewhere in between.

The Bulldogs are probably better than you think they are. State has convincing wins over decent teams in Memphis and Arizona.

Maybe it’s the result of the NCAA transfer portal, also the COVD-free passes on eligibility, maybe even the NIL opportunities with the ever-burgeoning market for spittoons in Starkville.

But if this depth chart is correct, I count 17 Bulldogs seniors in the starting lineup, nine of whom have been around (or transferred in) long enough to graduate.

Maybe there’s more to do in Starkville than we realized. If so, please advise.

But it seems like this is a bigger game than what’s being promoted.

There’s one problem.

I also wouldn’t put much stock in this game.

I guess I’ll always be a history buff. And Mississippi State has never been a good measuring stick for the Tigers.

Maybe two years ago when the Glib Pirate, Mike Leach, coached his first SEC game in the season opener and unleashed that pop-gun offense for a conference record 623 yards passing against the defending national champion LSU secondary.

The Tigers’ defense was lost in space all season, so there was that. DBU became Blown Coverage U.

For the most part, however, the Bulldogs have been LSU’s grain of salt. Don’t make too much of it either way.

Even back in the LSU dark ages in the ’90s, pre-Nick Saban, the Tigers used to could count on Mississippi State for a little pick-me-up.

You had to put up with the incessant cowbells, but it was kind of worth it in those struggling days.

A proud LSU program that had fallen on hard times would always somehow beat pretty decent Mississippi State teams.

It was always a mirage.

False hope.

Tiger fans would get excited, assume “LSU was back!” recycle a few of Skip Bertman’s old Starkville jokes and then go get beat by somebody, usually Auburn it seemed, to come back down to earth.

The lone Bulldogs’ win from 1991 to 2014 helped get Gerry DiNardo fired in 1999 — never mind that, with current replay rules, LSU would have won even that game upon further review. But apparently first bounce into the end zone counted that night on the fourth-down winning touchdown.

Anyway, that was 20 of 21 that LSU won before Dak Prescott landed in Starkville to somewhat even things up.

LSU has won three of the last five, including last year when perhaps the Tigers exacted some revenge for spoiling the previous year’s lingering national championship celebration.

Still, it’s a game worth winning. Maybe you’ll get a better fix on this team.

Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at