This game goes down on the ESPNU network and it features the University of Memphis Tigers take on Mississippi State University Bulldogs in Starkville.
Mississippi State looks to improve on a 5-7 record 3-5 in SEC play as coach Dan Mullen enters his second year as the Bulldogs main man. Last season the Bulldogs competed against some of the traditional SEC powerhouses while leading the conference in rushing, 227.6 ypg and finishing 9th in the nation. Offensively the Bulldogs return seven starters but lose quarterback Tyson Lee and Running Back Anthony Dixon.
Replacing Lee will be junior Chris Relf, 22 of 41 passes 283 yards and 5 touchdowns, saw very limited action under center. Relf was also the Bulldog’s second leading rusher with 76 carries for 500 yards and 2 touchdowns. No matter who is under center the Bulldogs will have the protection of SEC beast left tackle Derek Sherrod.
Vick Ballard looks to take over Dixon’s vacated spot at tailback but do return top receivers Chad Bumphis and Marcus Green. Together they combined for 59 receptions for 681 yards and 7 touchdowns.
Defensively the Bulldogs return seven starters including the linebacker duo of KJ Wright, 82 tackles 2.5 sack, and Chris White, 75 tackles. However Mullen not satisfied how his defense finished the season went out and hired two defensive specialists in hired Manny Diaz (Middle Tennessee) and Chris Wilson (Oklahoma) to run things.
Memphis starts a new ear in Starkville with new head coach Larry Porter, former assistant at LSU, and new quarterback Cannon Smith. Porter inherits a squad that went 2-10 and 0-5 in Conference USA under Tommy West. It doesn’t get easier for the first year coach as the Tigers will also replace their top two rushers from a year ago as well as the program’s top two all-time receivers. While the specialty positions on offense will be new to playing time the offensive line returns every starter from last season.
Defensively there are six returning starters but that’s from a defense that finished nationally 116th. Tackles Dontari Poe (6-5, 350) and Charlie Bryant (6-8, 320) anchor the defensive line while senior linebacker Jamon Hughes, 87 tackles, mans the middle.
Mississippi State has won 10 straight meetings with Memphis to take a 31-11 series edge, although these teams haven’t faced off since 2003.
PICK: Mississippi State University Bulldogs