2010 Record: (9-4, 4-4 in SEC)
Head Coach: Dan Mullen (14-11 at Miss St, 7-9 in SEC games)
Last Bowl Game: 2010 Gator Bowl (beat Michigan 52-14)
Final 2010/2011 AP Ranking: #15
Final 2010/2011 CFBZ Ranking: #17
9/3: at Memphis (2010 result: won 49-7)
9/10: at Auburn (2010 result: lost 17-14)
9/15: LSU (2010 result: lost 29-7)
9/24: Louisiana Tech
10/1: at Georgia (2010 result: won 24-12)
10/8: at UAB (2010 result: won 29-24)
10/15: South Carolina
10/29: at Kentucky (2010 result: won 24-17)
11/12: Alabama (2010 result: lost 30-10)
11/19: at Arkansas (2010 result: lost 38-31 2OT)
11/26: Ole Miss (2010 result: won 31-23)
2010 Offensive Statistics:
Scoring: 29.0 ppg (10th in SEC, 48th in Nation)
Rushing Yds/Game: 215.85 yds/game (2nd in SEC, 16th in Nation)
Passing Yds/Game: 185.5 yds/game (9th in SEC, 87th in Nation)
Total Yds/Game: 401.3 yds/game (5th in SEC, 42nd in Nation)
2010 Defensive Statistics:
Scoring: 19.8 ppg (3rd in SEC, 21st in Nation)
Rushing Yds/Game: 119.08 yds/game (4th in SEC, 15th in Nation)
Passing Yds/Game: 237.8 yds/game (9th in SEC, 91st in Nation)
Total Yds/Game: 356.8 yds/game (8th in SEC, 49th in Nation)
2010 Misc Stats:
Turnover Margin: +0.54 per game (4th in SEC, 27th in Nation)
Penalties: 43.0 yds/game (4th in SEC, 27th in Nation)
Top Returning Statistical Leaders:
Passing: QB Chris Relf, Sr (128 of 217 for 1776 yds, 12 PTD, 5 RTD, 6 INT)
Rushing: RB Vick Ballard, Sr (187 for 981 yds, 5.2 ypc, 20 TD)
Receiving: WR Chad Bumphis, Jr (44 rec for 634 yds, 5 TD)
Tackles: S Charles Mitchell, Sr (93)
Sacks: DT Fletcher Cox, Jr; DT Josh Boyd, Jr (2.5)
Interceptions: CB Corey Broomfield, Jr; CB Johnthan Banks, Jr; S Nickoe Whitley, Soph (3)
Athlon Sports: Liberty Bowl (vs SMU)
Phil Steele: Chick-fil-A Bowl (vs FSU)
Sylvester Croom was the SEC Coach of the Year in 2007 but one year later he was out as coach after going 4-8 overall and 2-6 in the SEC. Dan Mullen came in and went 5-7 in year one and then took a huge step last year as the Bulldogs finished 9-4 and received a Gator Bowl invite. After the big turnaround last year, Dan Mullen has become one of the hottest coaches in the Nation and he is looking to cement that reputation this year. One of the biggest positives for this Mississippi State team is experience. They are the second most experienced team in the SEC behind only Vandy. This team has a ton of experience of offense as they have virtual all of their offensive yardage back from last year and are #1 in the SEC in this category.
Mississippi State didn't get off to a great start last year as they lost a close game early to the eventual National Champion Auburn Tigers and then got beat by LSU the very next week. The season turned against Georgia as State won that game 24-12 and reeled off six straight wins to start 7-2. Despite back-to-back losses to Bama and Arkansas, the Bulldogs rebounded to beat rival Ole Miss and then destroy Rich Rod and Michigan in the Gator Bowl. This years schedule is very similar to last years. Out of conference Mississippi State should go 4-0 and not be severly tested. In conference they lose Florida but gain South Carolina as one of their rotating Eastern Division opponents. It's not an overwhelming schedule as they toughest early games (LSU, Georgia, South Carolina) are spaced out and they catch an extremely young Auburn team at the right time (the start of the year). The season once again closes with Bama, Arkansas and Ole Miss and those will be the games that decide if Mississippi State maintains the status quo from last year or if they can take another step forward this year. To get the inside scoop on the Bulldogs we caught up with Brad Locke, the Mississippi State beat writer for the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal.
Dan Mullen has done a fantastic job since coming to Mississippi State. This off-season he lost Manny Diaz to Texas. Who replaces Diaz and how might the Bulldogs defense change this season?
Chris Wilson, who held the title of co-defensive coordinator last season, was promoted to replace Diaz. He'll still coach the defensive line, and the new hire is Geoff Collins, who will coach linebackers (which Diaz coached) and take the co-DC title. Wilson and Diaz had a good working relationship, and Wilson has said MSU's defense won't change much. He'll favor the blitz and use diverse packages to keep offenses off balance.
We know about Chris Relf, Vick Ballard and Chad Bumphis. Who are some under the radar guys on offense that you think will step up this year?
There was a lot of buzz in the spring about redshirt freshman Malcolm Johnson, who was moved from receiver to tight end, but it's hard to say how much action he'll get with senior tight end Marcus Green returning from injury. Green is a difference-maker. Sophomore tailback LaDarius Perkins showed last year he can hurt defenses running or catching the ball, and look out for sophomore receiver Michael Carr, who came on strong at the end of last season.
The Bulldogs took a hit this off-season at LB but they did receive a transfer from Clemson in Brandon Maye. How do you see him fitting in and who are some other players to watch at LB this year?
Maye has said he's most suited for the middle linebacker spot, but he'll have to learn all three positions just like all the linebackers. Collins, who turned around FIU's defense last season as defensive coordinator, likes well-rounded players who can be plugged in a variety of ways. Maye is listed as a backup but should log heavy minutes. Right now, senior Brandon Wilson is at middle linebacker, while Chris Hughes and Cam Lawrence are pegged at the outside spots.
How big is it for Dan Mullen to continue his early win streak over Houston Nutt and Ole Miss?
Bigger than perhaps it normally would be given how heavily Mullen dwells on the rivalry. The first time Mullen loses to "The School Up North" – and any coach who's around long enough will eventually lose in this series – you can bet all those fightin' words he's thrown out there will be thrown right back at him. Mullen is 2-0 versus the Rebels, but MSU hasn't won three consecutive Egg Bowls since 1940-42.
Outside of Ole Miss, what are the most important games this year?
Mullen puts an emphasis on winning home games, and he's got three doozies this fall: LSU (Sept. 17), South Carolina (Oct. 15) and Alabama (Nov. 12). LSU and Alabama are expected to duke it out for supremacy in the Western Division, and any hope MSU has of being a Cinderella lies in beating those two.
What is your gut feeling on the final record for the 2011 season and what makes the season successful in your eyes?
As Mullen himself has noted, MSU could be better this year than last and still not match the 9-4 mark of 2010. The schedule is just so tough. My gut – which, mind you, is not that trustworthy – foresees six to eight wins and a mid-level to low-level bowl game. But Mullen's surprised us before, so why not again?
CFBZ Top 25
#14 Mississippi State
2011 Team Previews