Published September 11, 2012 - 3:50pm
NEW: Discuss this topic in the Google+ community for SEC fans.
Exiting the biggest victory of the Dan Mullen era over Auburn, Mississippi State has little time to celebrate. The Bulldogs are already getting ready for a trip to Troy this Saturday, in what will be an under-the-radar game that could transform into a let-down if not given the proper amount of preparation and respect.
Mississippi State, and the aforementioned Auburn, are two programs going in two different directions. Auburn is struggling to find any sort of offense or defense and waiting for any player to step up. The product on the field shows no development, and all eyes are on Gene Chizik after the 0-2 start.
MSU, on the other hand, is a program on the rise with a hungry coach leading the team into battle, and one that is ready to contend with the West gauntlet.
This team could really be 6-1 or 7-0 heading into Alabama in late October. Tennessee is the biggest question on the schedule before Bama, and the Bulldogs get the Vols at home.
While there are many things the Bulldogs will happily take away from the Auburn game, namely the victory, there are a few things that need improvement moving forward if this team really wants to contend for a championship. Hey, Mullen is talking championship, and I will too.
- Offensive Tackles: Auburn boasted a fast and physical defensive end combination, led by Corey Lemonier, and MSU’s tackles – Blaine Clausell and Charles Siddoway – were beaten several times. The guard and center play was good, but the tackles were a little exposed. Clausell and Siddoway’s play was masked by the fact that MSU only gave up one sack on the day, and Tyler Russell moved around the pocket and outside of the pocket well to negate what pressure was there. With games looming against LSU and Alabama later in the year, both tackles will have to step up their game going against both stout defensive lines.
- No Deep Passes: The MSU offense will need to develop a deep threat that can stretch defenses regularly and make teams respect the deep ball. Russell really only took one deep shot to Chad Bumphis for an incompletion. It’s not that the Bulldogs don’t have a deep threat, but we just haven’t seen one develop yet. But to beat the better defenses in this league – defenses that will stack the box and play great one-on-one coverage on receivers – you have to have a deep threat to keep defenses honest. Whether it is Bumphis or another receiver, this needs to develop moving forward.
- Special Teams: Bulldogs’ kicker Devon Bell missed two field goals. The freshman has a booming leg, but he has to be more consistent during games, especially in SEC play. In addition, the kickoff coverage unit gave up a 100-yard return to Onterio McCalebb. All three phases of the game – offense, defense and special teams – have to be tight in order to take down the big boys ahead on the schedule. Kickoff returns and missed field goals are absolutely game changers in this league.
- Third-Down Conversions: 1-10 won’t get it done in the SEC, except against Auburn. Both teams were a combined 3-22 on third downs, but we expect that from Auburn at this point. MSU has to be able to convert more third downs. They will get better at this throughout the season, but Mullen doesn’t want third and longs. MSU has to do a better job on first and second down in order to avoid the third and longs.
Mississippi State travels to Troy to play the Trojans. Opening this week, the Bulldogs started as a 13 point favorite against Troy. This line has already moved up to 16.5.
The only way Mississippi State doesn’t cover this spread is if they’re totally overlooking this game and looking ahead; though, they play South Alabama the next week and Kentucky the week after their bye, and it’s not exactly a looming big game.
Troy won its opening game against UAB 39-29 and lost last week against Louisiana-Lafayette 37-24.
Against UAB, Troy gave up 459 yards of offense compared to their 453 yards of offense. Troy outgained ULL significantly (588-389), yet still lost mostly due to turnovers (3).
Troy QB Corey Robinson had 70 pass attempts against ULL. Mississippi State brings a very solid secondary full of ball hawks led by Johnthan Banks.
The Bulldogs held Auburn to 2.3 yards per rush attempt.
Lastly, Mississippi State currently is #1 in the country in turnover margin.
Add it up and Troy will have to play against a much tougher defense compared to the likes of UAB and ULL. Mississippi State wins easily; it’s just a question of how big the margin is.