Saturday, August 25, 2007

Onward to Starkville

We are definitely now fully in the throes of game week, and to be honest I never really gave any thought as to how this blog would be organized when actual games were being played or were imminent.

I know I want to
  1. preview the game
  2. cover the game in some way
  3. summarize the game
  4. cover other games
I don't know if I want to do it in some form of routine, or if I just want to write about whatever is on my mind that particular morning.

Our opponent this week is Mississippi State. They were 3-9 last year. Here are their team statistical ranks for 2006 within the conference:
  • 11th ranked scoring offense
  • 11th ranked scoring defense
  • 8th ranked passing offense (in yards per game); 11th ranked passing offense (in yards per attempt)
  • 11th ranked passing defense (in yards per game); 10th ranked passing defense (in yards per attempt)
  • 12th ranked rushing offense in both yards per game and yards per attempt
  • 5th ranked rushing defense (in yards per game); 4th ranked rushing defense (in yards per attempt)
  • 9th in the SEC in total sacks
  • 5th most penalized team in the SEC
  • 12th ranked kickoff coverage team
  • lowest turnover margin in the SEC
In other words, this team was terrible last year. There also isn't a lot of reason to believe they'll be better this year. They were definitely a better team towards the end of 2006 than they were at the beginning, but that only tells you they were embarrassingly awful early in the season.

I'm not kidding. I saw their first two games on television last year, and I genuinely thought their offense was the most inept I had ever seen in the SEC. Their offensive line collapsed about half the time, giving the offense no chance to put together a successful play. They had trouble getting the ball snapped on time. They had trouble getting the field goal unit on the field on time. They were just terrible. It honestly looked like a JV team out there just learning how to play football.

Eventually, the offensive line stabilized and they became no longer embarrassing, but they certainly weren't good, even though they managed to beat Bama.

Unfortunately for them, they lost some of their best players to graduation. Quentin Culberson was the undisputed leader of that defense, and he is now gone. Also gone are some of their best defensive linemen. Their best returning players are Titus Brown at defensive end, Derek Pegues at safety, and Tony Burks at WR. Burks had a phenomenal 24.3 yard average per reception, and is their only big play threat. After that, they don't really have any game breakers.

If MSU is going to win any SEC games this year, their offensive line, which started out so poorly last season before stabilizing, will have to take even bigger strides. Some people are high on returning QB Michael Henig who was hurt much of last season, but he threw a lot of interceptions when he was in the game and was one of the weakest QBs in the conference according to the GeauxTuscaloosa QB rating system.

I've said already that I would be mildly surprised if they manage to win a conference game, and I would be shocked if they manage to win their opener against us. I am generally opposed to making definitive predictions, and I won't make one here. However, it would certainly be a very big upset, perhaps the biggest of the entire football season, if Mississippi State managed to beat LSU.

Can they do it? Is it possible? Sure. If LSU is unprepared, or if LSU goes out there assuming it will be an easy win, we will not be at our best. If those Bulldogs go out and play the game of their lives like they did against Florida a couple years ago, they could pull off the shocking upset. I just don't see the Tigers not being pumped for the season opener.

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