Have the Bulldogs gone as far as they can under Dan Mullen? Over the last three years, Mullen and his Bulldogs have averaged an 8-5 record and their best conference finish has been 4-4. Last year the Bulldogs went 0-4 against the Top 25 and 8-1 against everyone else.
The Bulldogs return seven starters on offense including their QB Tyler Russell. They finished ninth in the SEC in scoring offense, tenth in rushing offense and seventh in passing offense. But when you look at how they fared against Top 25 opponents they dropped way down to just 14.3 points per game. Russell returns for his senior season and he should continue to progress but he will have to replace his top four receivers (Chad Bumphis, Chris Smith, Arceto Clark and Marcus Green). That's going to hurt. The strength of his offense will be the RB corps as they return everybody including 1,000 yard rusher LaDarius Perkins. They also return four offensive linemen which should help the running game even more.
The Bulldogs return six starters on defense. They finished eighth in the SEC in scoring defense, eleventh in rushing defense and seventh in passing defense. A big area of concern was their third down defense as they finished thirteenth in the conference (only Kentucky was worse) letting their opponents convert on 42% of their attempts. The Bulldogs will replace two of their top four tacklers (Cameron Lawrence and Johnthan Banks) and four of their top ten overall. Based on who's returning and who left, I would expect the defense to be very similar to last season if they don't take a small step backwards.
Mississippi State looks poised for another 7-6 or 8-5 season under Dan Mullen. The Bulldogs are stuck in the middle and the big question will be if they get overtaken by teams that will be on the rise this year like Ole Miss and teams that will rebound like Arkansas and Auburn.
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