This game goes down on the ESPN2 network and it features the University of Michigan Wolverines taking on the Mississippi State University Bulldogs in the 48th annual Progressive Gator Bowl at Jacksonville Municipal Stadium in Jacksonville, Florida.
Mississippi State, 8-4, 4-4 SEC, Bulldogs head coach Dan Mullen team halted a two game skid by winning the season finale against in-state rival University of Mississippi. The Bulldogs are a solid offensive football team, as the club is averaging 27 ppg and 394.3 total ypg. The Bulldogs have scored 39 offensive touchdowns, 24 of which have been on the ground.
Vick Ballard has made the most of his attempts gaining 892 yards to go along with 16 rushing touchdowns. MSU’s quarterback Chris Relf has run for 683 yards and 4 touchdowns. As a passer, Relf has only connected on 56.3 percent throws for 1,508 yards with 10 touchdowns and 5 interceptions. Chad Bumphis is the top receiver on the roster, as he has 44 catches for 634 yards and 5 touchdowns.
The Bulldogs have 26 takeaways and 26 sacks on the season.
Michigan, 7-5, 3-5 Big Ten, in now in its third season with head coach Rich Rodriguez who saw a major improvement in 2010. Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson, the 2010 Big Ten Conference Offensive Player of the Year is a true dual threat. Robinson has rushed for 1,643 yards and 14 touchdowns at 6.7 yards per carry, and he has thrown for 2,316 yards and 16 scores. In large part because of their versatile signal-caller, the Wolverines are racking up 34.3 ppg and 500.9 total ypg.
Robinson’s top target is Roy Roundtree, who has posted 882 receiving yards and 6 touchdowns on 63 receptions. As for the ground attack, Robinson does get some help from the likes of Vincent Smith and Michael Shaw. Smith has run for 588 yards and 5 touchdowns, while Shaw has 9 to his credit.
This showdown marks the first ever meeting between Mississippi State and Michigan
PICK: University of Michigan Wolverines
This game goes down on the ESPN network and it features University of Arkansas Razorbacks taking on Mississippi State University Bulldogs in Starkville.
Last weekend, Arkansas took a break from SEC play to battle Texas-El Paso, and the result of that mismatch was a 58-21 victory. The Razorbacks now own a four-game win streak that has enabled them to move to 8-2 overall and 4-2 in SEC action.
Head coach Bobby Petrino has one of the most explosive offensive football teams in the nation. They are currently averaging 37 ppg and 491.9 total ypg, and it all starts with star quarterback Ryan Mallett. Through 10 games, he has completed 67.3 percent of his passes for 2,967 yards and 24 touchdowns against eight interceptions. Leading receiver Greg Childs is out for the season with an injury, but D.J. Williams, Joe Adams and Jarius Wright are all talented targets. As for the ground attack, Knile Davis leads the way with 844 yards and 10 scores.
Mallett was masterful against UTEP last weekend, completing 19-of-26 passes for 215 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions. Williams scored twice, and Davis racked up 182 rushing yards and one touchdown on only 11 carries.
Opponents are scoring 21 ppg against Arkansas, which is yielding 329.7 total ypg. The Razorbacks are rather mediocre against the run, permitting 4.1 yards per carry and 152.7 ypg. Jerry Franklin leads Arkansas with 70 total tackles, including 10.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks.
Mississippi State entered last weekend’s showdown with Alabama sporting a six-game win streak, the longest for the program since 1999. Unfortunately the Bulldogs fell in Tuscaloosa by a 30-10 final.
Head coach Dan Mullen offense struggled against Alabama, a statement that isn’t surprising considering the 30-10 final score. Chris Relf connected on 8-of-16 passes for 70 and was intercepted once before being relieved by Tyler Russell, who went 4-for-7 for 80 yards and a touchdown for the Bulldogs. They finished with 299 total yards and permitted five sacks, overshadowing a 9- of-18 effort on third down conversion attempts.
Overall this season, MSU is averaging 26 ppg and 374.8 total ypg, and Mullen has used both Relf and Russell in several games. Neither quarterback has been overly impressive throwing the football, but Relf has run for three scores. Chad Bumphis paces the receivers with 38 catches for 545 yards and five touchdowns, while Vick Ballard leads the ground attack with 699 yards and 12 scores.
MSU has been a solid defensive team for the most part, limiting opponents to 18 ppg and 348.3 total ypg. The Bulldogs are particularly tough against the run, holding foes to 121.2 ypg at a clip of 3.6 yards per carry.
Arkansas owns a 13-6-1 series lead over Mississippi State.
PICK: University of Arkansas Razorbacks
This game goes down on the ESPN2 network and it features Mississippi State University Bulldogs taking on the University of Alabama Crimson Tide at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Head coach Dan Mullen’s Bulldogs are on a roll right now. MSU dropped back-to-back games against nationally-ranked Auburn and LSU, but have won six games straight since, including a 24-17 victory over Kentucky two weeks ago. It is the team’s longest win streak since 1999. The Bulldogs were idle this past week and enter this contest with a 7-2 record overall, including 3-2 in the SEC.
The Bulldogs strength on the offensive side of the football has come on the ground, with MSU ranking among the SEC’s best rushing attacks at 218.7 yards per game, on 5.0 yards per carry. Out of the 30 touchdowns scored by the offense, 19 have come on the ground.
Tailback Vick Ballard has been a scoring machine this season. He is averaging a hefty 6.7 yards per carry this year, with 12 touchdowns. Quarterback Chris Relf is in the mix in the backfield as well, at 4.1 ypc and three touchdowns. Relf has been an asset as a runner, but has had some inconsistencies as a passer, completing just 53.4 percent of his attempts, for 926 yards and seven touchdowns. Chad Bumphis has clearly been the top target in a limited aerial assault, leading the team with 35 receptions, for 502 yards and four touchdowns.
Mississippi State has played strong defense for the most part this season, limiting foes to just 17 ppg. The pass rush has generated 19 sacks, while the defense has recorded 19 turnovers.
Chris White is playing at an All-American type level. The senior linebacker leads the team in tackles (86), TFLs (13) and sacks (5), adding one INT and one fumble recovery as well.
The Crimson Tide have now split their last four games and the chance at playing for a second national title is no longer on the table. The team is still a dangerous offensive team that uses the run at 177.4 ypg to set up the 250.4 ypg in the passing game.
The defending national champions still had an outside shot at defending their crown, but last weekend ended that notion, with a 24-21 road loss at LSU. Now at 7-2 overall and 4-2 in league play, head coach Nick Saban’s squad is two games back in the SEC West, with the start of a three-game homestand to close out the regular season.
With a backfield headlined by Heisman winner Mark Ingram, 6 ypc and nine touchdowns, and Trent Richardson, 6.9 ypc, five touchdowns, its easy to see why the team can usually move the chains on the ground. Running the football well opens things up down the field for quarterback Greg McElroy. On the season, the senior has completed 69.3 percent of his passes, for 2,004 yards and 13 touchdowns. Julio Jones has played at a high level on the outside, hauling in 55 balls, for 758 yards and four touchdowns.
The Crimson Tide lost some serious talent from last year’s defensive unit and although the team is allowing just 13 ppg in 2010, the unit hasn’t made as many game-changing plays. For one thing, the team has failed to generate much of a pass rush, with only 11 sacks this season. Alabama does have 15 interceptions on the year though, led by sophomore defensive back Robert Lester. Marcell Dareus 24 tackles, 8 TFLs, 2.5 sacks leads the way up front.
This is the 95th meeting in this longstanding series, with Alabama holding a 72-18-3 advantage all-time.
PICK: Mississippi State University Bulldogs
This game goes down on the ESPNU network and it features University of Kentucky Wildcats takes on Mississippi State University Bulldogs at Davis Wade Stadium.
First year head coach Joker Phillips has his Wildcats at 4-4 overall on the season but only 1-4 in SEC play. Kentucky opened the season with three consecutive victories, but things have gone down hill since. The Wildcats have lost four of their last five games, including a 44-31 setback to Georgia last weekend.
Kentucky senior running back Derrick Locke, 574 yards 7 touchdowns, is listed as questionable for this weekend’s game with a shoulder injury. All-purpose threat junior Randall Cobb has rushed for 195 yards and 3 touchdowns while catching passes for 511 yards and 5 touchdowns. Cobb has thrown 3 touchdown passes as well on just 4 completions and has scored on a punt return, proof that he is a threat every time he touches the football.
Senior quarterback Mike Hartline, 2144 yards 17 touchdowns 4 INTs, is completing 67.4 percent of throws and is highly underrated. Kentucky is averaging 34 points per game and 428.5 total yards per game this season.
Head coach Dan Mullen has the Bulldogs 6-2 overall this season and 2-2 in the SEC and are playing as a nationally ranked team for the first time since 2001. They rallied for a 29-24 win last weekend against UAB to bring the total to 5 straight, earning bowl eligibility for the first time since 2007.
Mississippi State junior quarterback Chris Relf, 815 yards 6 touchdowns 3 INTs, is only completing 55.3 percent of his throws. The Bulldogs are also expected to get junior running back Vick Ballard, 516 yards 11 touchdowns, while averaging 6.6 yards per carry and he is clearly key to the offense’s success. The receiver to watch is sophomore Chad Bumphis, 461 yards 4 touchdowns.
Defensively Mississippi State is limiting opponents to 17 points per game and 335.5 total yards per game to rank 13th nationally. Senior linebacker Chris White is a real standout on defensive with his 71 tackles and 12 tackles for loss with 5 sacks.
Kentucky owns the all-time series with a 21-16 series advantage over Mississippi State.
PICK: University of Kentucky Wildcats
This game goes down on the ESPNU network and it features the University of Alabama at Birmingham Blazers taking on Mississippi State University Bulldogs at Davis Wade Stadium.
Head coach Neil Callaway takes his Blazers into a non-conference game with a 2-4 overall record and 1-2 in Conference USA. The Blazers managed to halt a two game slide last weekend with a 21-6 triumph over UTEP as they try and finish strong in hopes of a bowl bid this season.
Junior quarterback Bryan Ellis, 1198 yards 8 touchdowns 5 INTs, has completed 57.1 percent of his throws this season for the Blazers. When Ellis puts the ball in the air he often looks to senior wide receiver Frantrell Forrest, 364 yards 4 touchdowns. However the Blazers operate a two quarterback system as they try to utilize sophomore David Isabelles, 394 yards 4 touchdowns, legs. If it’s not Isabelle running the ball those duties are handled by junior Pat Shed, 317 yards. The offense is generating only 21 ppg this season despite racking up 422.2 total ypg.
Defensively opponents are scoring 28 ppg against the Blazers which is allowing 374.8 total ypg. The Blazers have struggled against the pass, permitting 13.3 yards per completion and 11 touchdowns.
Head coach Dan Mullen has his Bulldogs 5-2 overall and 2-2 in the SEC as they prepare to play in this non-conference meeting against a Conference USA opponent. The Bulldogs are riding a four-game win streak that is coming of a 10-7 victory over the Florida Gators and his old boss Urban Meyer.
The Bulldogs offense is generating 28 ppg and 392.3 total ypg with most of it coming on the ground as 16 of their 25 touchdowns have come by that way. The Bulldogs themselves are operating a two quarterback system with that of junior Chris Relf, 708 yards 5touchdowns 3 INTs, and freshman Tyler Russell, 555 yards 4 touchdowns 5 INTs, under center and both have produced solid results. Regardless of who is throwing passes sophomore Chad Bumphis, 461 yards 4 touchdowns, is often on the receiving end. Junior Vick Ballard, 516 yards 11 touchdowns, leads the rushing attack followed by Relf and his 377 yards 2 touchdown efforts.
The defensive unit of Mississippi State deserves a ton of credit for the early success of the team, as opponents are only managing 16 ppg and 332.9 total ypg against the Bulldogs. Just four rushing touchdowns have come against this unit. Senior linebacker Chris White, 57 tackles 12 tackles for loss and 5 sacks is the true standout on that side of the ball.
Mississippi State has won two of its three all-time meetings with UAB, the most recent of which took place in 2007.
PICK: Mississippi State University Bulldogs
This game goes down on the ESPNU network and it features the Mississippi State University Bulldogs taking on the University of Florida Gators at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.
Head coach Dan Mullen is taking on his old boss from Florida and University of Utah Utes Urban Meyer where he served as the offensive coordinator at Florida before taking over the Bulldogs last season. Mullen’s team is 4-2 overall with a record of 1-2 in SEC but are coming off a 47-24 win against Houston last week. The Bulldogs are seeking their first four game winning streak since reeling off eight straight in 1999 but haven’t played a conference game since beating Georgia 24-12 on September 25.
Mullen continues to run a two quarterback system that will only present further losses as they now get further into SEC play and can help add explanation to why they rank 74th in the nation in passing. The Bulldogs rely on junior quarterback Chris Relf, 675 yards 5 touchdowns 3 INTs, to start things things off and overcome his 59.3 percentage of throws he completes by using his legs. Relf has rushed for 295 yards and one touchdown which is second best on the team. Mullen will then turn to freshman quarterback Tyler Russell, 555 yards 4 touchdowns 5 INTs, to hopefully creat opportunities with his arm. The rotating of quarterbacks at times just kills the natural momentum and feel the quarterbacks get into and hurts the Bulldogs.
It doesn’t matter who is under center as junior running back Vick Ballard, 418 yards 11 touchdowns, is averaging a 7.2 yards per carry. Sophomore wide receiver Chad Bumphis, 431 yards 4 touchdowns, is also a relaiable option for both quarterbacks.
Defensively the Bulldogs have strength in stopping the run as they only have given up 113.2 yards per game at 3.5 yards per carry. Senior linebacker Chris White is the star on the defense as he has 46 tackles and 7.5 tackles for loss.
Head coach Meyer is going against his former under study and rings his Gators into the game with a 4-2 overall record and 2-2 in SEC play. However the Gators losses have been back to back and their most recent being a nail biter to LSU 33-29. The Gators are trying to avoid losing three straight for the first time in 11 years.
The Gators junior quarterback John Brantley, 1056 yards 6 touchdowns 4 INTs, has yet to live up to the recruiting hype that was surrounding him years ago. Brantley is completing 62.1 percent of his throws but they are mostly short passes. Once again the status of junior running back Jeff Demps, 414 yards 2 touchdowns, is at 50/50 entering the game due to his sore foot. Freshman Trey Burton, 9 touchdowns, is viable player that needs to be on the field at all times.
The Gators defense is an average one but still has probably one of the best safeties in senior Ahmad Black, 50 tackles 3 interceptions.
Florida owns a 33-18-2 series lead over Mississippi State, including a 29-19 victory over the Bulldogs last season.
PICK: University of Florida Gators
This game goes down on the CBS Sports network and it features the Mississippi State University Bulldogs taking on the University of Houston Cougars at Robertson Stadium.
Head coach Dan Mullen brings his Bulldogs down to the great state of Texas to play in a non conference game with his team at 3-2 overall record and 1-2 in the SEC. Mullen is still yet to go away from running a two quarterback system which has helped to his losing record in the SEC.
Junior quarterback Chris Relf, 618 yards 5 touchdowns 3 INTs, and freshman Tyler Russell, 483 yards 4 touchdowns 5 INTs, have split time time under center. They both have the luxury of having junior running back Vick Ballard, 284 yards 8 touchdowns, and his 6.5 yards per carry behind them. It also doesn’t matter who is underneath center when it comes to the passing game because both quarterbacks always look to sophomore wide receiver Chad Bumphis, 352 yards 4 touchdowns, first.
The Bulldogs are only allowing opponents to score 16 ppg which is good for 22nd in the nation.
They have only allowed 3 touchdowns to come on the ground and have a play-maker in senior linebacker K.J. Wright who leads the defense with 38 tackles.
Head coach Kevin Sumlin has had two weeks to prepare his Cougars for the Bulldogs and hopefully with improve on their 3-1 overall record. The Cougars are playing at home in this non conference game but are 2-1 in Conference USA after their 42-23 win over Tulane.
Houston however ranks in the top-20 nationally in both total offense and scoring offense. They averaging 44 ppg which is 6th best. The Cougars are doing this without senior quarterback Case Keenum and backup Cotton Turner who were lost for the season in September. To make matters worse, the team’s leading receiver James Cleveland, 324 yards 3 touchdowns, is expected to be held out due to suspension.
The Cougars can still turn their attention over to junior running back Bryce Beall, 418 yards 9 touchdowns, and his 6.7 ypc. Houston’s quarterback of the moment is freshman Terrance Broadway, 258 yards one touchdown one interception, but still has a lot of work to put in.
The Houston defense is allowing opponents to score about 26 ppg against them which is 77th in the nation. Surprisingly though Houston has come uo with 7 interceptions while only allowing 6 touchdowns.
Houston owns a 9-6 series lead over Mississippi State, which includes three straight wins over the Bulldogs.
PICK: University of Houston Cougars
This game goes down on the ESPN network and it features Auburn University Tigers taking on Mississippi State University Bulldogs in Starkville.
Mississippi State happens to be my sleeper team in the SEC this year and they are sure to awaken the rest of the conference that they are on the schedule. Head coach Dan Mullen might not have the luxury of sneaking up on opponents next year after his Bulldogs impress a lot of people this year but he will have them in prime position to compete in the SEC every week.
The Bulldogs are hoping to prevent a fifth consecutive loss to Auburn in Starkville but are hoping to use their momentum of rolling past Memphis in the opener, 49-7, while holding the Tigers to just 41 rushing yards. The Bulldogs were dominant on both sides of the ball especially in the passing game which totaled 372 yards and 5 touchdowns. Although junior Chris Relf, 7-9 116 yards 1 touchdown 1 INT, started at quarterback but freshman Tyler Russell, 13-16 256 yards and 4 touchdowns, played most of the game.
Sophomore Brandon Heavens led the receivers with 5 catches for 112 yards and 2 touchdowns and sophomore Chad Bumphis added 4 catches 100 yards 1 touchdown. Vick Ballard lead the rushing attack with 7 carries for 60 yards and 2 touchdowns as the Bulldowgs finished the game with 569 total yards.
The Tigers finished 8-5 a year ago under Gene Chizik, including an Outback Bowl victory over Northwestern but only finished 3-5 against the SEC, its second straight losing campaign. Auburn hasn’t played well on the road well over the last two years, losing seven of eight. The Tigers hope that changes and they can continue on with what they started against Arkansas State, 52-26, last weekend.
Auburn fans need to take notice that they have a stud in quarterback Cameron Newton, who arrived at Auburn this season after starting his career with Florida, then spending the 2009 season leading Blinn College to the junior college national championship. Newton, 9-14 186 yards 3 touchdowns and rushed for 171 yards 2 touchdowns, was an absolute one man show.
The Tigers did receive contributions from freshman running back Michael Dyer, 95 yards one touchdown, and senior wide receiver Mario Fannin, 4 catches 65 yards 2 touchdowns.
Defensively the Tigers allowed Arkansas State to throw for 33-49 and 323 yards while unable to create a single turnover. Senior defensive end Antoine Carter was phenomenal against Arkansas State as he recorded 3.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks. It’s still unclear if Auburn will get linebacker Craig Stevens back in the lineup after he was suspended for the opener for disciplinary reasons.
Auburn owns a 58-23-2 series advantage over Mississippi State, including a 49-24 thrashing over the Bulldogs last season.
PICK: Mississippi State University Bulldogs
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