#54 Mississippi State Football 2012 Preview

Mississippi State Bulldogs

2012 Overall Rank: #54
#12 Southeastern Conference
Mississippi State College Football 2012 Team Preview
Mississippi State Team Page


Mississippi State has the unenviable task of trying to beat the best teams in the SEC each season.  The SEC has dominated the college football world of late, as both finalists in last year’s national championship game hailed from that conference.  MSU has generally found itself in the bottom half of the conference for the last several years.  Former coach Sylvester Croom could not make it work in Starkville.  Two years ago, Mississippi State hired Dan Mullen away from Florida to try and right the ship.  The Bulldogs have not quite reached the apex, but he has made strides with this team in the last few seasons, including wins over powerhouses Florida and Georgia in 2010.  They need to take the next step in 2012.

2011 Record: (7-6)
2011 Bowl: Music City Bowl (W 23-17)
Coach: Dan Mullen
Offensive Coordinator: Les Koenning
Defensive Coordinator: Chris Williams

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: LaDarius Perkins, RB, 422 yards
Passing: Tyler Russell, QB, 1,034 yards
Receiving: Arceto Clark, WR, 442 yards
Tackles: Cameron Lawrence, LB, 123
Sacks: Josh Boyd, DL, 4.5
Interceptions: Johnthan Banks, DB, 5

Other Key Returnees: WR Chris Smith, WR Chad Bumphis, DB Nickoe Whitley

Key Losses: DL Fletcher Cox, QB Chris Relf, RB Vick Ballard, DL Sean Ferguson

It should be no surprise that an SEC team’s biggest strength is defense.  They had a solid pass defense led by stud defensive backs in Johnthan Banks and Nickoe Whitley.  Despite the fact that they gave up less than 200 yards per game through the air, they were still only 11th in the conference.  Yet they were top-30 overall in the country.  That tells you how strong the defenses in the SEC are.  The Bulldogs were even better keeping teams out of the end zone.  They held opponents to under 20 points per game, which ranked 4th in conference.  

The Bulldogs may have been able to keep people out of the end zone, but they had their own problems scoring.  They averaged only 25.3 points per game.  That puts them in the bottom half of the league.  Their passing offense has been poor, as they have not been able to muster much over 180 yards per game.  Granted they are playing against extremely strong defenses.  In order to compete they will have to shore that statistic up.  They lose solid quarterback Chris Relf, who could run and pass.  They will have to decide if the experienced Tyler Russell is the man to replace him.  They also lose a lot of great contributors from last year’s team.  First-round draft pick Fletcher Cox was an absolute force for them in the middle of their defensive line, and running back Vick Ballard was a 1,000 yard rusher last season.  They have big shoes to fill.

The Bottom Line:
Mississippi State has a long way to go to overtake the Floridas, Georgias, and Alabamas of the college football world.  There is certainly a talent gap.  Mullen was a good defensive coach at Florida, and he has gotten really good players like Cox to come play for him in Starkville.  It looks like Mullen is at least keeping the Bulldogs competitive week to week in the toughest conference in America.  Their veteran defensive backs will lead the defense.  Mullen just has to make sure he finds the right man under center to lead the offense.  The Bulldogs look like they have another solid season ahead of them.  They lost all but two SEC games last season.  They will need to improve their performance against familiar foes if they want to reach eight wins.

Projected Bowl:  None

2011 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 175.31 (38th in nation, 5th in conference)
Passing Offense: 181.85 (94, 6)
Total Offense: 357.15 (84, 5)
Scoring Offense: 25.31 (73, 9)
Rushing Defense: 153.46 (61, 7)
Pass Defense: 197.15 (27, 11)
Total Defense: 350.60 (35, 8)
Scoring Defense: 19.69 (16, 4)
Turnover Margin: .00 (T59, 9)
Sacks: 2.08 (T47, 7)
Sacks Allowed: 1.92 (59, 5)

Madness 2013 NFL Draft Rankings:
#33 Johnthan Banks

Madness 2012 Football Recruit Rankings:
#128 Quay Evans