Every game on the schedule throughout the season presents its own set of challenges. Some will require you to play at your very best with minimal mistakes for all 60 minutes. Others will require your team to focus against teams that they should be able to beat easily, but a lack of concentration could allow that team to sneak up on you and get a surprise victory. The latter games are often referred to as trap games, and the 11th game on the schedule against Vanderbilt is the perfect example of a trap game.
Mississippi State will enter their game against Vanderbilt after playing in Tuscaloosa the previous week. The week after they will travel to Oxford for the always highly anticipated Egg Bowl. Sandwiched between the two is a game against a Vanderbilt team that is expected to take a major step back with the departure of James Franklin and the recruiting class he hauled away to Penn State with him. Whether they do or not remains to be seen, but Vanderbilt isn’t going to allow that to happen without a fight.
One other reason that Vanderbilt will be a dangerous opponent is that this game might be a must win for Vanderbilt to get bowl eligibility. I know you’re thinking I just said that the Commodores are going to take a step back, so why am I talking about bowl eligibility? The Commodores could get to a bowl because their non conference schedule is softer than a roll of Charmin. There has been a lot of talk about how soft the Mississippi State schedule is outside the SEC, but the Bulldogs don’t have anything on the Commodores.
Vanderbilt plays non conference games against Temple, UMass, Charleston Southern, and Old Dominion. They should win every single one of those games easily. That means they just have to find a way to get to two wins to find their way to a bowl. If they can find one additional win before they make their way to Starkville, a win over the Bulldogs might send Vanderbilt to a bowl. If they only have four before they play Mississippi State, you better believe Vanderbilt will come in focused and ready to give the Bulldogs all they can handle to try to get that 5th win and keep their bowl hopes alive.
Should everything play out the way we expect them to, Mississippi State will enter this game as a likely double digit favorite to win the game. I expect the Bulldogs to win, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see the Commodores give the Bulldogs a better fight than many fans anticipate.