2010 NCAA Football Preview: Mississippi State Bulldogs

Between now and the September 2nd season kick-off, Danny Hobrock will be previewing all the major college football teams with new teams being released daily.

2009 Season Breakdown

2009 final record (overall, conference): 5-7, 3-5
Bowl Game:None
Final Ranking (AP, Coaches'):NR, NR
Conference finish:6th SEC West
Offensive rank: 65
Defensive rank: 58

2009 Individual Statistical Leaders

Rushing:Anthony Dixon, 1,391 yards, 12 TD
Passing: Tyson Lee, 1,444 yards, 4 TD, 14 INT
Receiving:Chad Bumphis, 375 yards, 4 TD
Tackles:Jamar Chaney, 90 total tackles
Sacks:Pernell McPhee, 5 sacks (4 solo, 2 assisted)
Interceptions:Corey Broomfield, 6 interceptions (2 touchdowns)

2010 Season Outlook


(* denotes conference game)

Key Matchups

September 9 vs. Auburn: The Tigers won't be an easy win by any means, and the Bulldogs have won just once against Auburn since 2001 including their 3-2 loss in 2008, but with a very tough schedule on the horizon including a matchup at LSU the following week and versus Georgia in Starkville the week after, winning the conference opener could be key for not only getting off on the right foot, but making the bowl season as well.

October 9 @ Houston: This is going to be a major test for the secondary against one of the country's most prolific offenses. Case Keenum put up 5,671 yards and threw for 44 touchdowns a season ago, threw a touchdown pass in every game and failed to reach 300 yards just twice (vs. SMU: 233 yards; vs. Air Force: 222 yards). The offense will also have to be all systems go facing off against last season's top scoring offense (tied with Boise State).

November 27 @ Ole Miss: The Bulldogs and Rebels are widely expected to finish fifth and sixth in the West in either order this season. This game could determine not only who's in the basement, but whether the Bulldogs, or Rebels for that matter, go to a bowl game.

AP:Not Ranked

Coaches': Not Ranked

Key Losses

Tyson Lee, QB; Anthony Dixon, RB; Jamar Cheney, LB; Marcus Washington, CB

Key Returning Players

Chris Relf, QB; Chad Bumphis, WR; Marcus Green, TE; Derek Sherrod, OT; Pernell McPhee, DE; K.J. Wright, LB; Jonathan Banks, DB; Charles Mitchell, S

Offensive Overview

The offensive line returns four starters, with talented tackle Derek Sherrod leading the way, to a unit that made way for the SEC’s top rushing game. Running back Anthony Dixon is gone after serving as the star of the offense a year ago, but with two promising backs in Robert Elliot, who added 221 yards on the ground as a reserve last year, and JUCO transfer Vick Ballard ready to take over, the hope is that the rushing game will again be the bread and butter of this offense. Throw in quarterback Chris Relf, who played a bit last year as a running quarterback, and you’re looking at a team with a very good chance to repeat as the SEC’s top rushing offense.

Relf has reportedly improved his passing game this offseason, but still look for a rotation at quarterback with redshirt freshman Tyler Russell expected to see the field under center this season as well. If Relf shows that he can at least be serviceable as a passer, Russell could see less of the field, but entering the season, the expectation is for Relf and Russell to each see time with Relf likely seeing a few more reps than Russell.

Whoever ends up taking snaps will have a promising receivers corps to throw to. Chad Bumphis led all receivers with 32 receptions for 375 yards and four touchdowns as a true freshman. Back with a year of experience under his belt, he should again lead the team, adding that extra element that gives the Bulldogs the chance to score whenever they get the ball in his hands. Leon Berry also returns with tight end Marcus Green expected to be a big part of the passing game as well. Receivers Brandon Heavens and Chris Smith are also expected to see time in the rotation, making up a solid corps of pass catchers.

Defensive Overview

Pernell McPhee returns as the star of this defense and one of the conference's top pass rushers. He recorded five sacks a year ago and the expectation is that that number will see an increase over the course of the year. Chris Bell will line up opposite McPhee looking to play off of the added attention and respect that McPhee will demand. McPhee can't do it all and Bell will have to find a way to compliment him by getting pressure on the quarterback from the other side. The interior of the line should be dominant. Fletcher Cox and Josh Boyd are sophomores now and as stronger, more experienced linemen will form a nice duo up front. And then there's James Carmon, a massive 6'7, 345 pound tackle who will anchor this unit as an enormous run stuffer. If the pass rush comes and the tackles are as good as they look, this line could put forth a tremendous effort this season.

Replacing Jamar Chaney at the middle linebacker spot is Chris White. He's another former JUCO transfer and started every game last season at weakside, finishing third on the team with 75 tackles. Replacing White at weakside is last year's strongside linebacker, K.J. Wright. Wright finished second on the team with 81 tackles and along with White and Cameron Lawrence, a backup last season, will form a nice linebackers corps. Adding depth are talented underclassmen Brandon Wilson and Deaonte Skinner.

The star of the secondary is expected to be Charles Mitchell at strong safety. Coming off a season in which he finished fourth on the team with 64 tackles, Mitchell could stand to improve in his ball-hawking abilities, but he's an excellent run stopper. At free safety, Jonathan Banks could see time after serving in that role last season, but could move to corner or play as a nickel defender with Nickoe Whitley getting the nod in his place. Either way, Banks should see plenty of time in 2010. Maurice Langston is expected to start in one of the corner spots, with Banks and Corey Broomfield, who is recovering from a shoulder injury, likely playing opposite him on the other side.

Special Teams Overview

Sean Brauchle and Derek DePasquale, both seniors, will compete for time as the team's placekicker with both coming off solid years. Brauchle hit 6 of his 9 field goal attempts and all 13 of his extra points with DePasquale going 10 for 12 in field goals and 22 for 22 in extra point attempts. Heath Hutchins averaged a very pedestrian 39.7 yards per punt a season ago. More production would be nice out of the senior if the Bulldogs hope to win the field position battle. The two top receivers, Chad Bumphis and Leon Berry, will see time in the return game as well. Bumphis averaged 9.0 yards per punt return and 23.9 yards per kick return a season ago, with Berry averaging 7.7 yards per punt return and 26.7 yards per kick return including one taken back for a score.

Head Coach: Dan Mullen

Dan Mullen served under Urban Meyer at Bowling Green, Utah and Florida as a quarterbacks coach at all three stops and also as offensive coordinator at Florida. He has tutored several young quarterbacks throughout his coaching career including Josh Harris at Bowling Green, Alex Smith at Utah and Chris Leak and Tim Tebow at Florida. His first season as the Bulldogs head coach was of moderate success, improving the team's record from four to five wins. He brought in the 25th ranked recruiting class in 2009 and the 38th ranked class in 2010, establishing a solid base.

Top 2011 Draft Prospects

Derek Sherrod, OT; Pernell McPhee, DE; K.J. Wright, LB; Chris White, LB

Season Prediction

6th SEC West

There's talent enough to finish as high as fourth in the division, but with a bit of uncertainty surrounding the quarterback spot as well as in a backfield that was tops in the conference a season ago, and while the receivers and offensive line should be exceptional, it's hard to envision the Bulldogs finishing ahead of Auburn or Arkansas in the West. Meanwhile, the defensive front four needs to be more effective getting into the backfield, but overall the Bulldogs should field a solid defense that needs to be more productive than the SEC's 10th ranked total defense, 11th ranked scoring defense, 11th ranked pass defense and 11th in sacks. A brutal road schedule isn't doing them any favors with matchups at LSU, at Houston, at Florida, at Alabama and at in-state rival Ole Miss. - Danny Hobrock

Danny is a sports journalist primarily covering college football and professional baseball. His work for Xtra Point Football has garnered national attention and is critically acclaimed. Danny is the former editor of a political and current events website and the editor of our college football content.

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