Free College Football Picks - Mississippi State Bulldogs vs. LSU Tigers

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Thursday, September 15, 2016 7:29 PM GMT

It appears that No. 20 LSU will have superstar tailback Leonard Fournette back from injury on Saturday in its SEC opener against visiting Mississippi State. The Tigers, who are facing a must win, are -14 on college football odds with a total of 44.5.

Bulldogs Will Start Fitzgerald At QB
Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen had to find someone to fill the very big shoes of quarterback Dak Prescott this season. It appears he has found his guy -- for now. In Week 1, MSU was embarrassed at home by South Alabama 21-20 after blowing a 17-0 lead. Mullen started Nick Fitzgerald but he was 0-for-3 and pulled after two series. Damian Williams, on the other hand, was 20-for-28 for 143 yards and a TD and rushed 12 times for 93 yards.

Last week against South Carolina, Mullen started Fitzgerald even though Williams was clearly better in the opener. But Fitzgerald was excellent in the 27-14 win over the Gamecocks. He was 19-for-29 passing for 178 yards, two TDs and a pick and set a school record with 195 yards rushing, coming on 17 carries. I thought Prescott  might have held the record but it was 163 yards by John Bond in 1980 against Ole Miss. MSU had 485 yards of offense against USC, 290 on the ground. Williams didn't play at all vs. South Carolina, so it's Fitzgerald under center on Saturday.

“He had been graded a little bit higher all through training camp. That decision led him to play for straight four quarters," Mullen said of his decision on Fitzgerald against the Gamecocks.

The Mississippi State defense held South Carolina to 34 yards rushing on 31 carries, which is unbelievable and the fewest by an opponent against MSU since LSU had 30 on Sept. 26, 2009. Bulldogs lineman A.J. Jefferson led the charge with five tackles, one sack and two tackles for loss. He was named the SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week.

It's too bad MSU plays in the SEC West as it has won five in a row against the SEC East, all by double digits and by a total score of 196-74. The Bulldogs are 1-1 ATS on college football odds and 0-2 0/U.

 

Tigers Have Their Own QB Issues
I'll be honest that I picked No. 20 LSU to reach the College Football Playoff, but that's a pipe dream with another loss during the regular season following the Tigers' uninspired 16-14 defeat to Wisconsin in Week 1 at Lambeau Field. For some reason, Coach Les Miles just can't develop quarterbacks. If the Tigers are upset Saturday by MSU, Miles might not be the coach on Monday and I'm not kidding. BookMaker offers a prop on whether Miles is the team's head coach beyond New Year's Eve. Yes is a -320 favorite and no +230.

Last week, LSU had its home opener against FCS school Jacksonville State and didn't play well again in a 34-13 win. To be fair, Fournette sat with an ankle injury. He surely could have played if it was a real opponent, and he'll be in there on Saturday. Fournette rushed 23 times for 138 yards in Week 1. He has slipped on the Heisman odds at sportsbooks, down to +1200 at Bovada.

If Fournette goes down again, LSU appears to have a capable backup in sophomore Derrius Guice. He rushed 19 times for 155 yards and a touchdown against JSU. That's the good news. The bad is that Miles has a mess at quarterback. Starter Brandon Harris struggled against the Badgers -- his late pick sealed the loss -- and was 1-for-4 for 8 yards in LSU's first two possessions vs. JSU and then pulled for Purdue transfer Danny Etling. He was 6-for-14 for 100 yards with a TD and a pick. And Miles has named him the starter. So a guy who wasn't very good for a terrible Purdue team is now starting for a supposed national title contender?

The LSU defense could have its hands full against the dual-threat Fitzgerald as Jacksonville State quarterback Eli Jenkins rushed 18 times for 82 yards against LSU and also threw for 248 yards and a TD.

LSU will wear some really sweet gold throwback uniforms for this game. The Tigers are 0-2 ATS this season on free college football picks and 0-2 O/U.

 

Series History
Mississippi State's only win this century against LSU was 34-29 two years ago in Baton Rouge when the Tigers were ranked No. 8 and MSU was unranked. Prescott, now a Dallas Cowboys rookie, had a big game to lead the Bulldogs to their first win in Death Valley since 1991. Last year in Starkville, LSU was No. 14 and beat No. 19 Mississippi State 21-19. Fournette rushed 28 times for 159 yards and three touchdowns. MSU was down 21-6 entering the fourth, had a chance to tie on a 2-point conversion with four minutes left but a Prescott pass was incomplete. MSU's Devon Bell missed a 52-yard field goal with no time remaining.

 

Final Analysis
LSU is 50-6 in night games in Tiger Stadium under Miles and I'll give the points here -- although I'm going to be shopping around  for 13.5. Big on the 'under' even as low as it is. How can you trust either offense? The 'under' is 11-2 in MSU's past 13 SEC games. It is 4-0 in LSU's past four in the conference.  

 

Free NCAAF Picks: Under 45 -105
Best Line Offered: at Heritage

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