August 27, 2013

Week 1: OSI previews the Mississippi State Bulldogs

They got off to a scorching start last season with a 7-0 record before finishing at 8-4 on the season, and they've had folks in Stillwater concerned for a good portion of the summer.

The Mississippi State Bulldogs are an unknown. They're usually a middle-of-the-pack squad in the Southeastern Conference at the end of each year, reaching bowl games most of the team and giving each team their share of scares whenever they come to town.

The history and tradition for the Bulldogs, though, isn't necessarily excellence.

They have a few big-time NFL prospects that will line up against the Cowboys this Saturday in Houston, but they also have some glaring holes. Let's see what the Bulldogs bring to the table this weekend.

Names To Know

Coach Dan Mullen: (29-22 career, all at MSU) You've heard his name a lot this offseason when MSU is talked about. He's a wild card of sorts, sometimes putting together immaculate game plans, and other times seeming to miss the board completely. His first task of 2013 is to stop one of the best offenses in the country year in and year out. No big deal.

Guard Gabe Jackson: Jackson excels in run blocking, and is a preseason All-SEC selection this season. He didn't allow a sack last season based on the stats that I could find for the offensive line, and is listed at 6-foot-4 and a whopping 335 pounds. He's the typical lineman you see out of the SEC, and will likely have epic battles with OSU DT Calvin Barnett in the game, if you're into watching that sort of thing.

D-end Denico Autry: Autry transferred in before last season, and started 10 games for the Bulldogs. He had 9.5 tackles for a loss and 4.0 sacks. He's a monster (6-6, 265 pounds) on the edge, and will likely find his way into the OSU backfield before the game is over. He will be a huge test for the Cowboy offensive line that has a few questions surrounding it coming into the game.

Quarterback Tyler Russell: He threw for 2,897 yards and 24 touchdowns last season in the SEC, which is pretty good for facing tons of NFL defensive prospects each week. He's kind of disappeared in big games during his career, but took advantage of bad defenses last season (He threw for 7 touchdowns combined against Auburn and Arkansas).

Linebacker Benardrick McKinney: What a name, right? McKinney had 102 tackles last season - As a redshirt freshman. His high on tackles last fall was 14, a total he came to twice last season against Tennessee and Texas A&M. He's 6'5, and has the potential to disrupt the passing game too with rushing, though he hasn't totally put that component of his game together just yet.

What they'll try to do
Mississippi State lost a bit out of their defensive backfield last season, so they'll try to shelter their corners as much as they can against Oklahoma State with help from linebackers and nickel backs, as well as top help from their safeties. On offense, they have the tools to be successful in the power running game. OSU D-Coordinator Glenn Spencer said this is one of the best offensive lines that the Pokes will see all season, and I agree with him. It'll be tough to stop the Bulldogs' rushing game behind those big uglies.

Mississippi State is certainly capable of beating anyone. They have SEC talent and a handful of bone-crunching guys on the defensive side of the ball that could disrupt Oklahoma State's offense (See: What happened to the Pokes against Iowa State in 2011). That Iowa State team is actually who I'd compare this squad to if I had to, except that this team is a lot younger overall, and somewhat unproven. Oklahoma State is likely to win this one (They're favored in Vegas), but don't expect it to be a cakewalk. The Bulldogs are capable of at least keeping it close.

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