Mississippi State Bulldogs
The biggest reason for a downgrade at the quarterback position is coach Dan Mullen’s indecisiveness. Tyler Russell is the better passer, Dak Prescott the better runner. Mullen needs to pick which offense he wants to field and stick with the triggerman to run it. Instead, the Bulldogs essentially run two different offenses. Prescott’s hard-nosed running ability gives State a powerful presence it otherwise has lacked in 2013.
Rest of offense: C-
RB LaDarius Perkins has yet to rush for 100 yards in a game and only has 1 TD through the first half of the season. Whenever the Bulldogs have posted big numbers it has been against overmatched opponents. WR Jameon Lewis has been the bright spot in the passing game. The offensive line shows promise as a power-run unit, though isn’t elite as an all-around group. State ranks in the middle of the SEC pack in most offensive categories.
Statistically speaking, State boasts one of the best defenses in the SEC – at least top half in virtually every category. Many of the scores – including allowing 24 and 21 in losses to Auburn and Oklahoma State, respectively, would back that assessment. Then there’s the 59-26 debacle of a loss at home to LSU, which makes things a little more interesting. S Nickoe Whitley and CB Jamerson Love have shown great potential in the secondary, but the Bulldogs need more muscle upfront.
One single drive changed State’s overall grade from a B- to a C-. Fair or not, that’s the way it works in a results-oriented business. The Bulldogs were one defensive stand away from a big road victory over Auburn. Instead, they went to a gaping prevent defense that allowed the Tigers to march down the field for the winning score. Many would have expected State to lose to Oklahoma State and LSU while winning the rest. The Auburn game marks the difference between having a relatively good and relatively disappointing first half of the season.
Offensive Spotlight: RB LaDarius Perkins
The tougher half of State’s schedule still lies ahead. The Bulldogs will need Perkins to play like the all-conference performer he was in 2012 to gain bowl eligibility. Especially if Mullen ultimately elects to go with Russell as quarterback, State must have a strong running presence.
Defensive Spotlight: DE Denico Autry
If Autry is ever going to live up to his five-star rating he received coming out of junior college, it will have to be in the final six (or seven) games of his career at State. Anyone who thought 2012 was a disappointment for Autry must cringe at his stat-line this year: 10 tackles, 1.5 TFLs. It’s time for Autry to play up to potential and be a difference-maker in opponents’ backfields.