After a season-opening tune-up against Southern Mississippi resulted in a 34-16 win for the Bulldogs, Mississippi State gets set for a true test in Week 2 when it welcomes LSU to Starkville.

If you were to ask any of the Bulldogs players or coaches about the importance of such an early-season SEC West matchup, you’d most likely get a cliché response that goes something like, ‘We’re approaching this game just like any other on our schedule.’

But let’s not kid ourselves, this is not just another game for Mississippi State. The Bulldogs meeting with the Tigers this Saturday night will serve as the tone setter for the rest of their 2015 season.

This will be the second consecutive season in which LSU will be Mississippi State’s first SEC opponent on the schedule. The Bulldogs’ 34-29 win in Baton Rouge last year helped spark their 10-win season that caught many by surprise. Another win against the Tigers this season, this time in front of their cowbell-wielding fans, could perhaps have the same effect for Mississippi State.

On the flip side, don’t think LSU has forgotten about last year. The Tigers are coming to Starkville on a mission for redemption and will probably have a lot of pent-up energy, seeing as how their Week 1 game against McNeese State was canceled due to lightning.

However, not having been able to have that same sort of tune-up game that Mississippi State had the luxury of enjoying in Week 1 could be a disadvantage for LSU. On top of that, LSU quarterback Brandon Harris will be making his first career start and it will come in a hostile environment against a very tough SEC defense.

Dan Mullen’s team is used to playing the underdog role. He even said at SEC Media Days that he thinks the Bulldogs have been picked to finish last almost every season he’s been in Starkville. But last year’s success put the rest of the SEC West on notice and a big target on Mississippi State’s back.

But make no mistake about it, another win against LSU would give Mississippi State the confidence it needs to thrive in the SEC West once again.

LSU TIGERS CLOSER LOOK

Top returning player, offense: Leonard Fournette, So., RB — Fournette returns as LSU’s leading rusher and one of the best backs in not just the SEC, but all of college football. The former five-star recruit’s running style is a scary combination of power and speed. He’s as consistent as it comes, averaging 5.5 yards per rush on 187 carries last season. However, in the meeting between these two teams last year, the Mississippi State defense held Fournette to one of his more modest outings with just 38 yards on 7 carries.

Top returning player, defense: Kendell Beckwith, Jr., LB — Beckwith is a physical freak and a leader in the middle of the LSU defense. He’s LSU top returning tackler and his 7.5 tackles for loss last season are also the most of any player still on the Tigers defense. At 6-foot-3, 246 pounds, Beckwith has incredible speed for his size and uses that quickness to make tackles all over the field.

Top returning player, special teams: Tre’Davious White, Jr., PR — White took over as LSU’s primary punt returner last year and excelled at the position, averaging nearly 11 yard per return and taking one to house for a touchdown. White is a speedster of a defensive back that is nearly impossible to beat deep and he uses that speed, as well as good field vision, to his advantage in the return game.