September 14, 2011

Miles talking Mississippi State

Les Miles has had his share of success against Mississippi State while roaming the sidelines for LSU.

In fact, Miles has never lost to the Bulldogs sporting a 6-0 record. But Miles will be the first to admit that none of that is relevant when the two teams meet Thursday night in Starkville.

"I recognize that we play a quality opponent every year and that one year doesn't lead to the next in any way," Miles said. "It's a brand new challenge and a brand new group of young men. Certainly it's a quality coaching staff that Coach (Dan) Mullen has put together. We don't make much out of it and look forward to taking on a new challenge in a very, very quality team."

Miles and the Tigers escaped from Davis Wade Stadium in 2009 following a goal line stand securing a 30-26 victory. Last season LSU took advantage of five Bulldog turnovers in Death Valley to win 29-7.

But even with his success against MSU over the years, Miles has plenty of respect for the efforts Mullen has poured into the program recently.

"Mississippi State is a fine football team," Miles said. "Dan Mullen has done a terrific job there. They are currently ranked 25th in the country. They come off a difficult contest with Auburn. You know they are going to play hard and that they have a great scheme. Their offense leads the conference in rushing at 321 yards. They're scoring 46 point per game and have a league best 588 yards in total offense. Vick Ballard is a very talented back and is very capable. He is averaging about 150 yards a game. Chris Relf is an all-around quarterback who has improved in his ability to throw the football and rush it.

"We understand that this is a very good Mississippi State team. We understand that Thursday night will be a couple of days early. But it is one in which there will be great enthusiasm. We will enjoy opening conference play. We expect it to be a very competitive game."

The Bulldogs currently have the top offense in the conference averaging 588 yards per game. State is gaining 321 of those yards on the ground and putting up on average of 46.5 points in their first two contests.

Miles faced a similar style spread offense in week one when they defeated Oregon 40-27. But there is one component that differs Mississippi State's offense from the Ducks.

"Their quarterback is a little bit more aggressive to the run than the Oregon style of attack," Miles said. "That piece makes a tremendous difference in the Mississippi State attack than the Oregon attack."

Relf is currently third in the SEC in total offense passing for 397 yards and rushing for an additional 157. He has completed 61.1-percent of his throws for three touchdowns and one interception on the year.

"He is throwing the ball better," Miles said of Relf. "He is the field general that you want. He is a physical runner and handles the ball well. He does all of those things that you need to have happen at the quarterback spot."

The Bulldogs also have the league's top rusher in the backfield. Ballard has carried 31 times for 301 yards and four touchdowns in the first two contests. He leads the league averaging 150.5 yards per game and is picking up 9.7 yards per attempt.

"I think he is a tremendously talented back," Miles said of Ballard. "I think he is unusually capable. I think a lot of schools in this conference would enjoy him as a tailback."

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