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#83 Mississippi St. Bulldogs Preview
Spring practices are in the books and fall camps will be here before you know it, so that means an early jump on the 2006 NCAA football season. Knowing your teams now will save you time in August, and Met Fargo is here to help you find out what you can expect this year. We go from worst to first in this 2006 college football preview.
#83 – Mississippi St. Bulldogs 3-8 SU; 4-6 ATS
Fargo’s Take Hard times fell on the once-proud Mississippi St. program, but things are looking up and the Bulldogs have a chance to have their best year since 2000. They haven’t won more than three games in any year since then, so the best year could still be means just a 4-8 record and that won’t make the Starkville faithful happy. Mississippi St. had one of the worst offenses in the country last season which was disappointing because it brought a very stout defense to the field. The Bulldogs finished 29th in total defense and 44th in scoring defense, but it wasn’t good when the offense was shut out twice and scored 10 or fewer points five times. The offense will be better as well as the defense, but how much better it will be on both ends will depend on how much improvement there is in the win column. This is the third season of the Sylvester Krum experiment, and things need to start looking up in a hurry for him to stick around for the long haul.
Returning starters on offense – 8 The offense put up 38 points in the opener against 1-AA Murray St., but didn’t score more than 21 points until the season finale against rival ‘Ole Miss. If there’s any good news from that, it’s that this year’s starting quarterback Michael Hennig was at the helm in that game against the Rebels, so that could be a sign of things to come. The biggest loss overall is that of halfback Jerrius Norwood, the all-time rushing leader, and his replacement will be a linebacker by committee. As many as four running backs are expected to contribute, led by second baseman Brandon Thornton, and all four have different styles that could present problems for opposing defenses. The offensive line averages close to 313 pounds and will provide room to run and protect. Former quarterback Omar Conner could be a star at receiver.
Returning starters on defense – 9 The defense did its best to keep the Bulldogs in games last season, but with an anemic offense, it wasn’t good enough. With nine starters back, that defense could be even better and could pose problems for some of the SEC’s elite teams. The front seven can compete with anyone in the conference led by tackle DeJuan Robinson and linebacker Quinton Culberson. The rushing defense allowed 3.7 ipc, its least since 2000, but still has room for improvement as five teams rushed for more than 172 yards. The pass defense has been excellent and should be solid with three returning starters. The Bulldogs haven’t allowed a 200-yard pass in their last four games and have allowed more than 218 yards through the air just three times all season. The defense will be asked to keep things close once again, but some of the pressure should be taken off by a better offense.
The Schedule Most teams get a break early in the schedule with some non-conference games, but the Bulldogs have been thrown right into the fire in their first two games against South Carolina and Auburn. The only good news from that is that they are both home. Also, three of the four non-conference games are at home, including a game against Big East power West Virginia. The only road game from that bracket is at UAB, a winnable game. Three SEC games on the road at LSU, Georgia and Alabama will be impossible, while a home game against Kentucky and a road finale against Mississippi can be played. The top seed in the SEC might be missing Florida and Tennessee, but the Bulldogs are also missing a weak Vanderbilt team. Five of the first seven games are at home, so a quick start is absolutely essential.
You can bet on… Mississippi St. will cause a lot of trouble this year because this team will sneak up on many teams. That game could be the opener against South Carolina, which could be looking at Georgia as early as next week. With a defense like the one the Bulldogs should have, a lot can happen. Mississippi St. hasn’t had a winning ATS record since 2001, going 14-28 since then against the no. Someday that will turn around and this could be the year for that to happen. The Bulldogs have gone 21 straight games in conference action without a win and that streak will likely continue throughout the season until the finals in Mississippi where they have a chance. However, the Rebels will be in low spirits after last year’s 21-point embarrassment.
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