Published July 18, 2011 - 9:53am
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Saturday Down South will be looking at the SEC title chances for every team in the conference and giving three reasons for and three reasons against every team winning the SEC Championship come December…in alphabetical order of course.
Mississippi State Bulldogs
Three Reasons Why
1. Dan Mullen – You won’t have to look very hard to find the best reason State can win a SEC Championship. Dan Mullen has only been at State for two years, but you would think he has been there for many years. He is 14-11 in Starkville as the head coach, and you would also think he could run for governor right now and win it. Mullen is an offensive innovator. Some people think, and I’m in this boat, that Mullen was the biggest reason Urban Meyer has had so much success throughout his career. Dan Mullen wins football games, and he has put State’s archrivals in their crosshairs in the Ole Miss Rebels. Mullen’s spread offense could just be getting established in Starkville because he might be around for a while, according to him.
2. Chris Relf – Right now, Chris Relf is a top-three quarterback in this league – like it or not. He is one of only a handful of returning starters at the quarterback position, and he has all the tools necessary to run Mullen’s spread offense. Relf is a big body at 6-4, 245lbs, and he is used very similar to how Tim Tebow was utilized in this offense. He can take the pounding from SEC defenders and carry the football 15-plus times per game. He is an effective game manager, but he will have to improve on his passing game if this team has a shot to win the West. With that being said, I expect Relf to have a great year.
3. Rushing Offense – Running back Vick Ballard returns as the leading scorer in the SEC last season, averaging 10 points per game. Yes, more than Josh Jasper and Cam Newton in that department. Ballard is very effective between the tackles, and he finished only 32 yards shy of 1,000 rushing yards. The Bulldogs were second in the SEC only behind Auburn for the best rushing offense in the SEC. State averaged 214.8 yards per game. They will do it again this year with Ballard, Relf and Ballard’s backup LaDarius Perkins.
Three Reasons Why Not
1. Passing Offense – In 2010, MSU was quite good running the football, but they really struggled at times to get the passing game going. They were in the bottom half of the division in passing offense, only averaging 186 yards per game. If this team wants to win the West, the passing offense will have to step up its game. I do know Relf looks ready to bring his passing game to the table.
2. Manny Diaz – In 2010, this defense was one of the very best in the SEC. They were top four in rushing defense, and it really kept their opponents grinding on the field. State was able to wear teams out late in games. This year, Diaz is gone to Texas, and it will be tough to fill the innovative shoes left by Manny Diaz in Starkville.
3. Linebackers – Mississippi State sure did lose some good linebackers from a year ago. Both KJ Wright and Chris White are now gone, and both will be playing on Sundays. White was fourth overall in tackles in the SEC with 110, and he was the heart and soul of this defense. KJ Wright added 98 total tackles as well. Where does State turn to find a leader on this defense at linebacker? Both Wright and White had a combined 208 tackles on the year. In 2011, it looks as if Chris Hughes, Brandon Wilson and Cameron Lawrence will start at linebacker, but they return a combined 64 tackles. This linebacker position could affect Mississippi State big-time when pushing for a SEC Championship.