#42 Mississippi State Football 2013 Preview

Mississippi State Bulldogs

Overall Rank: #42
#9 SEC

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#42 Mississippi State Football 2013 PreviewBuy Mississippi State Football Tickets

As has become the norm in the Southeastern Conference, teams dominate their early, out-of-conference schedule and weak peers, and then find out where they stand with the big boys. Last season, Mississippi State followed this almost to a tee. The Bulldogs started the season off 7-0, having faced three of the worst teams in the conference and dispatching them rather handily. Then, the bench markers showed up. MSU found out where they stood. They got trounced by Alabama, Texas A&M and LSU back to back to back and their season was decided. It has simply become too hard for average teams to traverse the SEC. Mississippi State went the whole year with their only loss to a non-SEC team coming in their bowl game. At least this year the big boys are a little more spaced out on Mississippi State's schedule.

2012 Record: (8-5, 4-4)
2012 Bowl: Gator Bowl vs. Northwestern (L 20-34)
Coach: Dan Mullen (29-22 at Mississippi State, 29-22 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Les Koenning
Defensive Coordinator: Geoff Collins

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: LaDarius Perkins, RB, 1,024 yards
Passing: Tyler Russell, QB, 2,897 yards
Receiving: Malcolm Johnson, TE, 171 yards
Tackles: Benardrick McKinney, LB, 102
Sacks: Preston Smith, DL, 4.5
Interceptions: Nickoe Whitley, DB 3

Other Key Returnees: QB Dak Prescott, RB Josh Robinson, WR Jameon Lewis, OL Charles Siddoway, OL Archie Muniz, OL Gabe Jackson, DL Denico Autry, LB Deontae Skinner

Key Losses: WR Chad Bumphis, WR Chris Smith, WR Arceto Clark, TE Marcus Green, LB Cameron Lawrence, DB Johnthan Banks, DB Darius Slay

It is easy to see how this team started last season 7-0. They had a lot of talent on different levels. Many of those levels will be just as full this coming season. Quarterback Tyler Russell is back. He was nearly flawless through the team's perfect start to 2012. Helping him will be a return of much of the offensive line, including second team All-SEC guard Gabe Jackson. Jackson, along with Charles Siddoway and a few others bring a ton of experience to one of the most integral parts of a football team. And running behind that experienced line will be all the main contributors: leading rusher LaDarius Perkins, main backup Josh Robinson and goal line savant Dak Prescott. For a team that already finished second in the conference in sacks allowed and tied for first in turnover margin, this all bodes very well. Not quite as much will be returning on the defensive end but it may help to get some new blood in new spots anyways as MSU really struggled to stop people down the stretch of last season. A good sign on special teams will be that one of the SEC's best kickoff returners, Jameon Lewis, is back for his junior year.

It's funny to think how good some of the Mississippi State Bulldog defensemen were last season but how poorly the team played as a unit. Johnthan Banks won the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation's top defensive back. He didn't even lead the Bulldogs in interceptions though. That qualification belongs to Darius Slay. And yet, MSU did not even finish in the top 40 in pass defense and missed the top 50 in total defense. To make matters worse looking ahead to this season, do-everything linebacker Cameron Lawrence graduated. He led the team in tackles, tackles for loss, and finished second in sacks. It is hard to feel confident thinking an SEC team's offense is going to have to carry them. This is especially true considering Tyler Russell's top four receiving weapons from a season ago are all gone.

The Bottom Line:
It may be a long year in Starkville. Sure, much of the offense is coming back and should see improvements. But defense dominates in the SEC. This team does not have the defensive weapons to compete with the likes of Alabama and LSU. Also, the offense, unless huge strides are made, isn't quite good enough either. It is not on Texas A&M or Georgia's level. Where this leaves MSU is around the bottom half of the conference. This could still be good enough for a bowl berth but it is hard to feel confident going into the season. On the plus side, the way the schedule shakes out, Mississippi State may get off to a nice start, something like 5-2, before they lose a bunch in a row.

Projected Bowl: BBVA Compass Bowl

2012 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 144.15 (82nd in nation, 10th in conference)
Passing Offense: 237.77 (58, 7)
Total Offense: 381.92 (79, 7)
Scoring Offense: 29.46 (60, 9)
Rushing Defense: 165.62 (67, 11)
Pass Defense: 221.77 (45, 7)
Total Defense: 387.38 (52, 8)
Scoring Defense: 23.31 (34, 8)
Turnover Margin: 1.23 (T5, T1)
Sacks: 1.38 (100, 14)
Sacks Allowed: 1.46 (35, 2)

Madness 2014 NFL Draft Rankings:
#94 Gabe Jackson

Madness 2013 Football Recruit Rankings:
#36 Chris Jones
#112 Ashton Shumpert
#234 Cord Sandberg
#244 Fred Ross


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