Inside the Numbers: Mississippi State's flying start
Mississippi State is off to a 6-0 start through the first half of its scheduled, holding down the No. 1 spot in the polls for the first time in school history. Let’s examine some of the interesting statistics behind their rise.
- 2. The Bulldogs have only allowed opponents to score via the run twice this season, tied for best in the SEC with Alabama. Both of the scores came on goal-line runs, and only one came against an SEC opponent (LSU). State’s run defense is strong, fast and disciplined, and it looks like it’ll take a very impressive effort to break a long scoring run against them.
- 5 and 40.5. Speaking of disciplined, Dan Mullen’s team has been among the best in the conference at avoiding penalties. They’re only flagged five times per game, second-best in the SEC, for an average of 40.5 yards, which ranks third. While playing a clean game doesn’t always equate to wins — last year’s SEC champ Auburn was middle of the pack when it came to penalties — it certainly helps a team still on its way up like the Bulldogs to avoid hurting itself.
- 3. The Bulldogs are third in the SEC in rushing, while Dak Prescott ranks third nationally among quarterback rushing yards. Prescott has been able to pick his spots to run, and having breakout star Josh Robinson next to him has certainly helped open up his running lanes (and vice versa).
- 60. Field goal kicking becomes less important when your team is scoring a touchdown seemingly every drive, but special teams are not an area to be neglected. Ask Alabama — miscues in that phase can cost you a game. Mississippi State is 3-for-5 (60 percent) as a team on field goals this season, and the Bulldogs have also missed three extra point attempts. Both field goal misses have come from 40-plus yards away, making them a little more understandable, but that’s the range that plenty of game-winners come from.
- 16. The Bulldogs have given up 16 “explosive” plays so far this season, which we define as runs of 20-plus yards and passes of 30-plus yards. While only five of those plays have been runs, ranking just behind the SEC’s leaders, the 11 explosive passing plays they’ve allowed rank at the very bottom of the conference. While Mississippi State has already faced (and taken care of) two of the most explosive offenses in the country, Alabama and Ole Miss are more than capable of burning them deep.
- 2. Mississippi State got its first two games against ranked opponents at home this season. In the second half, that flips, as both ranked teams left on the schedule will be hosting the Bulldogs. Mississippi State proved it can win in hostile environments against LSU, and they’ll have to prove their mettle again in November.