SEC Storylines: The Decline of Mississippi State and Arkansas
This is the seventh article reviewing the ten topics I deemed most important to the SEC before the season began.
The previous articles in this series can be found here:
- Storyline 10: The Return of Marcus Lattimore
- Storyline 9: Derek Dooley’s Hot Seat
- Storyline 8: Georgia’s Defense
- Storyline 7: Is Vanderbilt any good?
- Storyline 6: Picking on the New Kids – Texas A&M and Missouri
- Storyline 5: Divisional Powershift Courtesy of Auburn and Florida
The Decline of Mississippi State and Arkansas:
I caught a lot of flak for broaching this subject in 2012. Apparently Mississippi State fans love their mediocre football and if you call a spade a spade (or an average team an average team as the case was) you are asking for a fight.
The fine folks in Arkansas however didn’t seem to mind watching their program collapse before their own eyes.
1. The western Bulldogs offense averaged a pedestrian 25.3 points per game in 2011, and this season they go without top playmakers Chris Relf (1587 yards of offense and 12 TDs) and Vick Ballard (1376 yards, 11 TDs).
2. The Bulldogs are already in decline. After going 9-4 in 2010 MSU was the trendy football hipster pick to surprise in the SEC West last year. Alas, they needed a bowl win over Wake Forest to finish above .500 at 7-6.
3. MSU may not have even been that good in 2010 as two of their conference wins were against down Florida and Georgia teams. Florida’s five losses in 2010 were surpassed last season (6 total), but at the time was tied for the most losses since 1987 for the Gators. Georgia’s losing season was its first in 14 seasons. MSU earned those two wins, but a lot of other teams could have gotten them as well.
4. Mississippi State is under investigation by the NCAA for “recruiting irregularities.” It has been rumored that receivers coach Angelo Mirando’s resignation was tied to the investigation. I’m shocked because “Angelor Mirando” just sounds like a trustworthy guy. In any event the investigation could be a real distraction.
5. Last season MSU lost to Auburn, LSU, Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama and Arkansas in conference play. The Bulldogs have dropped the Bulldogs but added Texas A&M – another team that should be better than MSU. Carolina rotated off the schedule but I think Tennessee will also push MSU. I’m not sure where the third conference win comes from (assuming MSU handles Ole Miss and Kentucky).
Here’s how those assumptions turned out:
- Mississippi State continued to struggle offensively. The Bulldogs averaged 29.5 points per game, but against SEC foes that average fell to just above 25.
- The Bulldogs finished 8-5 but picked all eight of their wins against non-BCS conference opponents or opponents who fired their head coaches.
- Again, despite starting hot (7-0) Mississippi State was not that good this year.
- No word yet on the final recruiting ruling – to my knowledge.
- Mississippi State won four conference games by virtue of playing Tennessee, Arkansas, Kentucky and Auburn. Those foure schools won a combined three SEC games.
1. Tyler Wilson got worse last season. Yes, you read that correctly. In his first year as a starter Wilson’s completion percentage dropped from 66.7 in 2010 to 63.2. He threw TDs less frequently (1 every 12.75 attempts in 2010, 1 every 18.25 in 2011) and his QB rating dropped (155.4 to 148.4).
2. Wilson struggled against elite defenses. His two lowest yardage games came against Alabama (185) and LSU (207) and he combined to throw only 3 of his 24 TDs in those two games but 2 of his 6 interceptions.
3. Wilson has lost Jarius Wright, Joe Adams and Greg Childs to the NFL. Those three combined for 2009 receiving yards and 16 receiving TDs in 2011.
4. Arkansas gets Alabama and LSU both at home this year – but I believe both teams are more than capable of overcoming the Arkansas home crowd. The Razorbacks must travel to Columbia, SC to take on the Gamecocks and add a road game that A&M would love to win. This year’s schedule is more difficult than last year’s.
5. Anybody hear about Bobby Petrino? Yeah, the mastermind is gone.
And what actually happened?
- Wilson went from throwing for 3638 yards, 24 TDs and just 5 INTs to throwing for 3387 yards, just 21 TDs and 13 INTs. That’s a decline.
- Wilson did not play against Alabama but failed to post a passer rating above 126 against LSU, Texas A&M and South Carolina.
- He missed his receivers.
- Alabama and LSU beat Arkansas.
- Petrino was gone. Arkansas was bad. Real bad.
And that’s all I got to say about that.
That’s all I got/