Published October 9, 2012 - 12:30pm
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The Matchup: Tennessee (3-2, 0-2) at #19 Mississippi State (5-0, 2-0)
When: Saturday, October 13th
Where: Starkville, Mississippi
Game Time: 9:00 PM ET
Recent History: Tennessee has won nine of 10 overall and four of five in Starkville. MSU has lost six straight by an average score of 40-15. The Vols have dominated this series, but they haven’t played since 2008.
Tennessee Will Win If: The Vols limit turnovers. In their two SEC losses this season, quarterback Tyler Bray has thrown a total of five interceptions and lost a crucial fumble late in the game against Georgia. Bray, who is second in the SEC in passing yards (1,582) and first in touchdowns (14), will need to step up his game on the road in another hostile environment. Bray will need to distribute the ball accurately to his two star wide receivers Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson, as well as get help in the running game from Rajion Neal. However, this game will be Bray’s to win if he can limit his turnovers and protect the football. MSU is +11 in turnover margin and was leading the country at +13 before last weekend.
Mississippi State Will Win If: The Bulldogs can work the edges of the Tennessee defense. We saw what Florida did with Trey Burton and the wildcat against Tennessee; we saw what Georgia’s Keith Marshall and Todd Gurley did to the edges of the Vols’ defense. Both the Gators and the Bulldogs are pro-style offenses that got more “spready” against the slower linebackers for Tennessee. MSU runs the spread, and if they can get outside and turn the corner on the Vols’ defense, look out. The Bulldogs have enough firepower at receiver and running back to exploit the defense just like Florida and Georgia did before.
Storyline(s): There will be two main storylines in this football game. Derek Dooley is 0-12 against ranked opponents and 1-8 on the road in the SEC. Some say this is a must-win for Dooley if he wants to keep his employment at Tennessee next season. On the contrast, MSU is a team everyone wants to know how good they really are. The Bulldogs have played nobody yet, and Tennessee would probably be 5-0 with MSU’s schedule, too. I think we’ll learn a good bit about MSU this weekend.
Player(s) To Watch: For Tennessee, you must watch wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson. Tennessee should work him into the game plan more and certainly give him more touches. He’s averaging 15.4 yards per play from scrimmage, and he’s dangerous in the open field with his size and speed.
For Mississippi State, keep your eye on LaDarius Perkins. Perkins has had a marvelous season so far, rushing 82 times for 499 yards and six touchdowns. He’s averaging right at 100 yards per game, and MSU will need to get the ground game going early to make quarterback Tyler Russell more effective in the passing game. Perkins will be key on edge runs to hopefully turn the corner and turn in some long runs against the Vols’ defense.
What To Watch: The most interesting matchup of the weekend could lie in this football game. With MSU’s secondary, led by corners Johnthan Banks and Darius Slay, against Tennessee’s receivers of Hunter and Patterson, this is a matchup worth watching. These are all future NFL players doing work against one another.