#SECPreviews: West- #7 Mississippi State Bulldogs
A funny thing happened to while starting the SEC West preview in the same format as the other posts. I realized that, for obvious reasons, there was going to be a lot more interest in SEC team previews, and just out of my baseline knowledge I would have a ton more info to convey anyway.
So, here we are. Counting down the SEC teams individually (can I skip Vanderbilt?). First up? Mississippi State.
What Happened Last Year?
Probably the best season in Bulldog history, as they started 9-0 and spent four weeks ranked #1 in the country. Sidebar: a team that spent a month ranked #1 in the country is being picked by me to finish DFL in their division.
Dak Prescott was absolutely lights out for most of the season, totaling almost 4500 yards of offense. That was the big difference for Mississippi State, as their offenses under Dan Mullen have been historically underwhelming. 2014 saw them average 36.9 points per game, after a previous high (under Mullen) of 29.5. The defense was actually the WORST by total yards allowed per under the Mullen regime, but they were efficient. They lose a total of 15 starters, including 8 off that defense. Bernardrick McKinney is the big loss here.
Three Key Games
Sept. 12, LSU: After opening at Southern Miss, there is an immediate test coming to Starkville. The front seven (actually the whole starting 11) boasts no underclassmen, but only three returning starters, and Leonard Fournette should pose a good early challenge. Last year, a FURIOUS rally by LSU fell just short in Death Valley.
Oct. 3, at Texas A&M: The pattern for the key games for MSU is the ‘swing’ games, as there is no higher-than-66%-sure SEC win outside of Kentucky on the schedule. Ironically, the first two picks are the two that started MSU’s ascent to the top of the poll last year.
Nov. 28, Mississippi: Even if the season goes off the rails, a win in the Egg Bowl always makes things better. At this point in the season, the Bulldogs should be the world’s greatest 6-5 team. The series has gone to the home squad each of the past four years, so advantage: MSU.
Five Players to Watch
Amazing. In the B1G West, I had to dig deep. Here, it’s pretty much off the top of my head.
QB Dak Prescott: If I’m wrong and Miss. State wins 9 or 10 games, Prescott is hoisting the Heisman.
WR De’Runnya Wilson: Andrew and I highlighted him on our preview podcasts last year as a breakout candidate based on name alone. 680 yards and 9 TD later? We got something right for the first time in DudeYouCrazy history.
WR Donald Gray: Ranked the nation’s 5th-best JuCo receiver, he is the prototypical nightmare-inducing slot guy. In an offense where 9 guys had at least 14 receptions last year, you can bet he’ll find the field (or so say pundits).
CB Will Redmond: The only recognizable name left from last year’s defense, he clinched the Arkansas win with a big interception last year. As a part-time starter, 51 tackles, 5 TFL, and 3 interceptions is a pretty nice season.
MLB Richie Brown: Tasked with replacing McKinney, which is no small task. At 6’2 235, he anchors a still-very-large-for-this-era linebacking corps.