Saturday night's game against Mississippi State will be about moving on for the 10th-ranked LSU Tigers. Last weekend's heartbreaking loss to Georgia needs to be put behind them. One loss shouldn't ruin their season and it certainly shouldn't limit their ability to reach the national championship. Slipping up and losing a game on the road to an unranked Mississippi State team could, though.
"After the game I just wanted to touch the guys and let them know that we fought hard and now it's just about moving on to the next one, and that's Mississippi State," LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger told reporters in Baton Rouge, La., this week. "All of our preseason goals are still attainable, we just have to take the long road and battle from here on out.
"We really would have liked to have gone undefeated, but now we just have to win the rest."
For Mettenberger, the loss was especially painful. He played the game of his life, throwing for three touchdowns and 372 yards in a losing effort at the place he began his college career. He said the game didn't end the way he wanted it to and the only thing he could do now was turn the page.
The good news?
"Right now we're playing at a high level offensively, and we need to continue to do it," Mettenberger said.
LSU's offense, though, isn't in question. Mettenberger and his receivers, namely Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr., are indeed operating at a very high level. LSU is fifth in the country in passing efficiency (187.8), 11th in passing yards (1,409) and tied for eighth in passing touchdowns (13). The running game has even been successful of late with Jeremy Hill has rushed for 386 yards and six touchdowns in his last three games.
On the other hand, the defense has major question marks. Aaron Murray and Georgia absolutely torched the LSU secondary, passing for 298 yards and four touchdowns. All told, Georgia had 494 total yards of offense.
Granted, the backside of LSU's defense is young, but that can only be an excuse for so long.
"We've played a lot of young guys on defense," LSU coach Les Miles told reporters on Monday. "That's the way it's supposed to be. We've got to get them ready. When you're tested by your best opponents, that's where you find out more. I think we got the right guys. I don't think there's any reason to put guys to the side. But we got to get better. I think we'll all kind of reach in and get that done this week."
While Mississippi State's offense doesn't exactly strike fear into opponents' hearts, ranking in the middle of the pack in the SEC in nearly every major offensive category, it does present a unique set of challenges, namely how LSU must prepare for two quarterbacks with two very different styles.
Dak Prescott, a dual-threat passer with good mobility, has started every game since Mississippi State's season-opening loss to Oklahoma State when starting quarterback Tyler Russell sustained a concussion. Russell, a pocket passer in every sense, is penciled in to start against LSU after four weeks off.
"That's the plan," Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen said on Wednesday. "He's looked good. Dak's looked good. We've had a pretty good week of practice with both guys. We'll see how it goes Saturday.
"It's a great thing to have" -- playing two quarterbacks -- "You're one play away from your No. 2 QB being No. 1 as we found out in week 1. You should always make sure you have at least two players ready. Through my years of coaching we've had a lot of times using one or using two."