Mississippi State Bulldogs
2010 record: 9-4 overall, 44 conference
2010 Bowl Game: 52-14 win over Michigan in Gator Bowl
2010 ATS: 7-6
2010 O/U: 5-8
Returning starters: 15 total (8 on offense, 7 on defense)
Over the month of August, our team of writers will be previewing the top teams heading into an exciting 2011 campaign. The college football handicappers at Maddux Sports are also preparing and have season-long packages readily available for clients.
Let’s take a look at the third year of head coach Dan Mullen in Starksville, Mississippi and the Southeastern Conference.
The offense ranked 10th in the conference in scoring last year, but that was still good enough for 48th nationally, by scoring 29 points a game. Mississippi State possessed one of the more dominating run games in the country, rushing for 214.9 yards a game a season ago.
Mullen is hoping that senior quarterback Chris Reif’s experience of starting last year and an improved receiving corps will help balance out the offensive attack. Reif completed 59 percent of his passes for 1,789 yards, while also rushing for 713 on the ground.
Junior Chad Bumphis will lead the receivers, as he caught 44 passes for 634 yards and five touchdowns in 2010. Incoming freshman Joe Morrow is also getting some looks at camp, as his 6-foot-5 frame is something that has been missing on the outside.
The running game has a dangerous two-pronged attack with senior Vick Ballard and sophomore LaDarius Perkins. Ballard is a monster and set a school record with 19 touchdowns a year ago, while also averaging an eye-popping 5.2 yards per carry.
Some holes need to be filled on the offensive line, mainly the one left by All-America left tackle Derek Sherrod.
Many around the program believe the season depends on how well the linebacking group performs after losing all three starts from last year. Mississippi State ranked 21st nationally in giving up just 19.9 yards a game in 2010.
Transfer Brandon Maye may end up being a gift from God, as he will be seeking a masters degree at the university and has been granted the NCAA’s graduate student exemption. He started 33 games and finished with 233 tackles while at Clemson.
The front four has a solid starting group, but many question if the unit can survive the rigors of the SEC. Tackles Josh Boyd and Fletcher Cox will play a big role in stopping the opponents run game.
Few around the practice field are concerned with the secondary despite allowing 237.8 yards per game through the air, as the coaching staff is raving about strong safety Charles Mitchell, who many believe might be the best player on the team.
Senior Derek DePasquale is the man at placekicker, hitting 20-of-24 field goal attempts in his career, while also showing some leg with a 48-yarder during his time on campus.
The punting duties will likely fall on the leg of sophomore Baker Swedenburg.
Several players will be used in the return game, led by receiver Chad Bumphis and redshirt freshman Jameon Lewis.
Against the Spread
Mullen has led the school to back-to-back winning ATS seasons, including covering the number in all four games as a road favorite.
Take a close look at the college football lines page for the season opener, as the Bulldogs are 5-0 ATS in their last five meetings against the Memphis Tigers.
Mississippi State is likely to be in a war during its home opener against LSU in Week 3, which is likely to turn out bad due to a 3-11 ATS mark the last 14 meetings.