By E. Marcel Pourtout, Editor
Music to listen to: I’m a Man by Bo Diddley
Last Season: When Dan Mullen arrived in Starkville six years ago, Mississippi State was in the bottom half of the SEC and arguably the worst program in the stacked SEC West. Since then, the Bulldogs have reeled off four consecutive winning seasons, including three bowls wins, all under Mullens. Mississippi State won seven contests including defeating in-state rival Ole Miss in an overtime victory. The Bulldogs finished off the season with a decisive 44-7 win over Rice in the Liberty Bowl.
Offense: The argument can be made that the Bulldogs return the top quarterback in the SEC in Dak Prescott. While its tough to argue against Nick Marshall of Auburn and the previous sentence exasperates the depletion of signal callers in the conference, Prescott still had a productive season for Mississippi State. The junior threw for nearly 2,000 yards last season and 10 touchdowns. Prescott was even more lethal on the ground, rushing for 829 yards and 13 touchdowns, giving Mullen the long-desired dual-threat quarterback to run the offensive system.
The quarterback will have plenty of receiving options led by senior Jameon Lewis who had a breakout season for the Bulldogs with 923 yards and five touchdown catches last season.
Consistency at the running back position is desired with junior Josh Robinson getting the bulk of the carries. While Prescott is an impressive runner as stated earlier, Mississippi State’s offense needs for him to throw the ball more and rely on the running backs to get yardage for full potential. Whoever gains the majority of carries will do so with a rebuilding offensive line.
Defense: Mississippi State’s defense was stout last season, giving up only 349 yards per game which was good enough for fourth in the SEC and in the top-20 nationally.
The deepest unit on the team will be the defensive line led by preseason All-SEC team member, sophomore Chris Jones. The team’s top returning tackler from last season, junior Benardrick McKinney comes back for another season and will be joined by fellow linebacker, senior Matthew Wells, in the starting lineup. The secondary is slightly above-average and should be a solid unit overall.
|9/13||at South Alabama|
|11/29||at Ole Miss|
Here’s where the Bulldogs and many other teams in the SEC fall into trouble. I can make an argument that this may be Mullen’s most talented team in Starkville but the team can still finish with only six wins based on schedule.
The good news is that Mississippi State avoids Missouri, Georgia, Florida and South Carolina which are the top four teams in the SEC East no matter how you want to rank them. Instead the Bulldogs get Kentucky and Vanderbilt, two teams they should handle with relative ease.
However, they have to travel to Alabama, LSU and Ole Miss, three top-20 teams nationally. Furthermore, they have to host a top-10 team in Auburn and a talented Texas A&M team. Those are five potential losses that wouldn’t be shameful in any way but hurts the overall record.
Thanksgiving years ago back in the NYC, I’m changing channels trying to watch some more football after a Dallas Cowboys’ game. I turn to ESPN and see two teams battling for a trophy that shaped like an egg. I thought that was bad ass and make a point to watch the Ole Miss/Mississippi State contest for a few minutes every year just at the off chance to see that awesome egg trophy.
BTW, my favorite college football rivalry game trophy in order is Paul Bunyan’s Axe, followed by the Fremont Cannon, Floyd of Rosedale, the Golden Egg and the Apple Cup to round up my top-five. If your trophy can be used as a weapon or a tribute to food, I’m in.
Stronger list than expected. I’ll go with John Grisham for writing books about the legal system that got me interested in literature as a young man. Personal favorite was A Time To Kill.
Honorable mention: Bill Evans, Bobby Thigpen, Buck Showalter, Will “The Thrill” Clark, Fred Smoot, Jerry Clower
I’ve always had love for attractive meteorologists and this school churns out many. I’ll show some local love to Markita Brown who works down here in Atlanta. Honorable mention: Audrey Puente
The Bulldogs have made tremendous steps under Mullen. I think they potentially have the tools to be a double-digit win team because I only see two guaranteed losses on the schedule; the road contests at Alabama and LSU. Outside of that, there isn’t a reason for Mississippi State to come into the rest of their contests at worst a slight underdog. Win a few of those contests and a ten-win season isn’t out of the question. I’ll predict eight victories and a New Year’s Day Bowl.