In preparation for Mississippi State’s SEC opener in Death Valley against LSU this weekend, Saturday Down South is taking a look at a key matchup that may decide the showdown between the Bulldogs and the Tigers.

Mississippi State secondary vs. LSU wide receiver Travin Dural

The Mississippi State secondary has appeared vulnerable at times during the Bulldogs’ first three games of the season, but it will have to tighten up before facing wideout Travin Dural and the LSU Tigers in Baton Rouge Saturday night.

Mississippi State is 105th in the nation in explosive pass plays allowed having given up six completions of 30-or-more yards in three games against Southern Miss, UAB and South Alabama. Dural, meanwhile, is among the nation’s best at creating big plays, catching 12 passes for 370 yards and four touchdowns so far this season.

Dural has averaged more than 120 yards per game and more than 30 yards per reception in 2014, catching a touchdown pass on one of every three of his catches. He’s seventh in the nation in receiving yards, eighth in yards per catch and tied for fifth in touchdowns, reinforcing his status as one of the most electrifying receivers in all of college football.

To add some context to the LSU passing game, the rest of the Tigers’ pass-catchers have combined to catch 20 passes for 272 yards and two touchdowns in 2014, meaning Dural has amassed for than half of LSU’s receiving yards and an even two-thirds of its receiving touchdowns. It has become apparent after three weeks that the key to stopping the Tigers’ aerial attack is to first shut down Dural at all costs.

The Bulldogs’ secondary has not had quite as strong a start to the season as Dural has had in Baton Rouge.

Mississippi State ranks 119th in all of FBS in pass yards allowed with 935, an average of more than 310 yards per game. That number is second-worst in the SEC, only ahead of South Carolina. However, despite allowing their fair share of explosive plays through the air, the Bulldogs have only allowed three touchdown passes this season. All three of those touchdowns came from at least 75 yards out, proving the MSU secondary has been able to hold its own when defending in the red zone.

The Bulldogs have also pulled in five interceptions in three games, tied for sixth in the nation and second in the conference. Two of those interceptions were recorded by defensive end Preston Smith, who normally is not a big factor in pass coverage but has had a knack for being in the right place at the right time this season. The other interceptions were registered by MSU defensive backs Tolando Cleveland, Jay Hughes and Will Redmond,while starting cornerbacks Taveze Calhoun and Jamerson Love also rank among the team leaders in pass breakups.

On a play-by-play basis, the Bulldogs’ secondary has been as good as its ferocious front seven, but Mississippi State cannot afford to let a struggling LSU passing game off the hook with a big play to Dural. As long as the Bulldogs can contain LSU’s top target, their defense should match up well with the Tigers.