Well, I’ve analyzed about all I can. As objectively as possible (which isn’t entirely possible) I’ve predicted the SEC and of course, Mississippi State’s season. It’s always fun to predict, and here’s what I’ve come up with:
Week 1: September 1st at Memphis – Memphis went 1-11 last year, including losing to MSU 49-7, and only return 6 starters. The Tigers are probably going to be one of the worst teams in the country and there is a very strong chance this game will have more MSU fans there than Memphis even though it’s at the Liberty Bowl. State should win this game going away just like last season.
Week 2: September 10th at Auburn – Auburn’s offensive line was gutted this offseason, and they are going to have to come together quick against Josh Boyd, Fletcher Cox and #5 D-line in the league. The Tiger’s have great running backs as always but will they have enough room to run with that inexperienced line? State’s linebackers are the main question, but with the above being said and Auburn QB Barrett Trotter getting his first taste of an SEC defense will Auburn be able to expose that possible weakness. I don’t think Auburn matches up well at all when MSU has the ball either. State has a returning QB and WRs vs. Auburn’s very inexperienced defense which I rate at near the bottom in every unit and #11 overall. This game is also going to be an 11:30 kick so the Auburn faithful will not have all day to get revved up. I’m going with Mississippi State to pull away with a sound victory.
Week 3: September 15th vs. LSU – Many people probably don’t see this one as a tough game to call, but I do. MSU will be 5 days removed from what is usually a hard-hitting matchup with Auburn, while LSU has Northwestern State the week before. When I go down my unit rankings, I see a very even game with the receivers, O-line, D-line, and secondary all having negligible differences. Jordan Jefferson is an athletic senior QB who shouldn’t be rattled by a hostile environment on Thursday night in Starkville. But Chris Relf is solid and I give the edge to State there as well as their proven backfield. I think LSU has more talent at linebacker and I look at State’s offense as #4 in the league vs. LSU’s #4 defense. But I’ve got LSU at #7 on offense vs. MSU’s #5 D, and being at home, and because I want them to win the game really really bad, I’m picking State to eek out a win and go to 3-0. Since I’m predicting LSU to beat Oregon in the opener, I think there’s a 50/50 shot they’ll be #1 coming into this game…which will make for a huge party in Starkville.
Week 4: September 24th vs. Louisiana Tech – In ’08 La Tech spoiled MSU’s season right from the start by upsetting them in Ruston. State has similar expectations this year but there are some differences here such as: this is the 4th game of the year, the game is in Starkville, and MSU has a different head coach. If State does as I predict and starts the year 3-0 they will probably be ranked in the Top 10 for this game, and this has A LOT of potential for a let-down game before the end of September. La Tech has 13 returning starters off a 5-7 team with a first year head coach, but they lose a QB, WR, and 3 offensive lineman going into the season. Hopefully State will come out with defensive intensity to shut their offense down, otherwise this could be another game like UAB last year, where State has to hold on tight and barely squeak by due to a letdown. But I am going to pick State to go to 4-0.
Week 5: October 1st at Georgia – This game looks to be very evenly matched. Even though I have MSU’s QB unit listed 2nd, behind UGA, that has a lot to do with a competent backup…so I think Aaron Murrey’s talent is a solid advantage for Georgia, especially at home. MSU has a more proven backfield, but if Crowell lives up to expectations there is not much of an advantage either way as I rate both team’s O-line, D-line and linebackers very closely. It’s hard to see any mismatches for either team here and that should make for a very good game. This game being in Athens is a big deal for Georgia, and their emotional state will play a big role. If they start 0-2, will they bounce back and make a run behind Richt, or fold? If they start 1-1 or 2-0 where will their heads be in this one, a week before playing Tennessee? With all else even, I’m going with the home team, UGA, to avenge their loss in Starkville last year.
Week 6: October 8th at UAB – This will be the 4th road game out of 6 games for State. Last year UAB hung with State until the bitter end in Starkville, but I attribute most of that poor play to a severe hangover from beating Florida in the swamp the week before and State’s first national ranking in nearly a decade. UAB returns 7 starters from a very potent offense that scored on everyone in 2010. Their defense was awful on that team, but they return 9 starters and bring in ex-Memphis coach Tommy West as DC. I think their defense will improve this year and the offense should be good, which makes this a tough non-BCS road game for MSU. If the Blazers catch the Dawgs coming off a win in Athens this could be another chance to catch them napping, but I think State will be alert and end up winning the game as they should.
Week 7: October 15th vs. South Carolina – By the time South Carolina reached the mid-way point of the season, there is a very real chance they could be in the Top 5, maybe even the top 3 in the country. By my calculations, this will be their toughest test so far and it’s on the road. Both of these teams have an off week the next week so there will be no holding back. Carolina has a bunch of star players like Lattimore, Jeffrey, Clowney, and Gilmore, who if all healthy should be able to beat teams like MSU on shear talent. But this is why they play the games, and with MSU’s deep WR core I think they have the opportunity to expose a less than stellar USC secondary. If MSU’s O-line can contain USC’s powerful D-line I think Chris Relf will be able to move the ball through the air and keep up with the Gamecock’s offense. This is South Carolina’s 4th SEC game in a row, whereas State will have only played 1 SEC game in the previous 3 weeks. With the game in Starkville, I think State is able to pull off the upset behind the arm of Chris Relf or Tyler Russell.
Week 8: Bye – If indeed MSU is 6-1, having just beaten South Carolina they should be ranked in the Top 10, top 15 at worst. This bye comes at an opportune time as Mullen prepares for the final stretch of the season that includes 4 SEC games.
Week 9: October 29th at Kentucky – MSU has won the last two games in Lexington in this series. If Joker Philips is able to muster a respectable offense by this point in the season it could mean trouble for the Bulldogs. UK will also be coming off a bye week and Jacksonville State…so essentially 3 weeks to prepare for this game, however, MSU is coming off a bye as well. I don’t see any reason why both of these teams would have any trouble getting up for this game, so I think going on talent is a safe bet. As they have done in the past against Kentucky, I expect MSU to run, run, run, and run some more until the Cats D is worn down. And the Dawgs will pick up a vital road win.
Week 10: November 5th vs. Tennessee-Martin – This game is homecoming and it’s a perfect time for it as Alabama comes to Starkville the next week. If my predictions are correct, this game will make Mississippi State 8-1 and most likely a Top 10 ranked team going into the game vs. Bama.
Week 11: November 12th vs. Alabama – The Tide demolished MSU in Tuscaloosa last year, but how emotionally invested in that game were the Bulldogs after the tragic loss of Nick Bell? But they were undoubtably the better team then and now with better players at almost every position. If my predictions are correct, this could be the second consecutive game for Bama vs. a Top 10 team which will be brutal. I think State has a chance to win this game if they can elevate their play with the home crowd and intensity of the rivalry. Mullen will basically have two weeks to prepare, the game’s in Starkville, I’m going with the Dawgs.
Week 12: November 19th at Arkansas – MSU has beaten Arkansas only once in the last 12 years. One of the reasons is because this game is sandwiched between State’s two biggest rivals in Alabama and Ole Miss. When you compound that by having to go to Little Rock it is really tough on the Bulldogs. Bobby Petrino should have his offense in full swing by this point of the season and they will be really tough to beat unless MSU’s secondary can come up with some timely interceptions. With the game in Arkansas, I’m going with the Hogs.
Week 13: November 26th vs. Ole Miss – This is an underrated rivalry, but I can’t say you can throw out the record books as the best team usually wins. I’ve got MSU ranked higher in 6 out of 7 units and this game is played in Starkville. If Ole Miss is playing for their 6th win and bowl-eligibility this could get a lot more interesting. But I’m going with the Dawgs to make Dan Mullen 3-0 in the Egg Bowl.