Last year Mississippi State was coming off a dream season in 2014, where they went 10-3 and nearly won the West. With just 7 returning starters, most expected the Bulldogs to struggle.
Oddsmakers set their win total at just 7 games. Mississippi State proved their doubters wrong by going 9-4. That included a 51-28 beating of NC State in the Belk Bowl.
A lot of credit needs to be given to head coach Dan Mullen. Year after year he gets his team to exceed expectations. He’s guided the Bulldogs to six straight bowl games. His only non-winning season came in his first year on the job back in 2009.
Looking ahead to 2016, Mullen’s team figures to once again be overlooked. Mississippi State will be a popular pick to finish last in the SEC West. Is this the year the experts are right or will Mullen and the Bulldogs prove them wrong once more?
|Date||Opponent||Spread (Est.)||Win Chance|
|11/26||@ Ole Miss|
|Estimated Wins: TBD|
*We take the win chance by using the college football win percentage chart for each point spread.
Any team that plays in the SEC West is going to have a difficult schedule. Though there is a lot to like about the slate that the Bulldogs have been dealt in 2016.
Mississippi State’s non-conference portion of the schedule features what should be three easy wins. Those are against South Alabama, UMass and Samford. The lone exception being a road game against BYU on Oct. 14. This comes sandwiched between two conference games and will be played in prime time on Friday.
As for the SEC part of the schedule, Mississippi State caught a big break. They avoid having to play Tennessee, Florida and Georgia out of the East. The only team from the West that doesn’t have to play at least one of those three.
Instead they draw South Carolina at home and a road game against Kentucky. They should have no problem against the Gamecocks, but the Wildcats could prove to be a tough matchup. Kentucky continues to get better under Mark Stoops and will be coming off a bye.
Some might see the fact that Mississippi State has to play LSU, Ole Miss and Alabama on the road as a bad thing. I actually think it’s a blessing. Those are teams they likely wouldn’t have beat at home. That means they get teams they are comparable to on their home field.
One of the reasons the Bulldogs were able to win 9 games with just 7 starters back, was the fact that they returned starting quarterback Dak Prescott.
Prescott put the offense squarely on his shoulders and delivered in a big way. He threw for 3,793 yards with 29 touchdowns to just 5 interceptions. He also led the team with 588 yards and 10 scores on the ground. He left as the school’s all-time leading passer with 9,376 yards.
The big question is how do they replace someone like Prescott and not suffer a setback. The likely answer is they can’t. It’s anyones guess who will emerge as the new starter. The most likely candidates are sophomore Nick Fitzgerald and junior Damian Williams.
The problem is it’s not just the passing game where Prescott’s absence will be felt. Their top returning rusher is senior Brandon Holloway, who had just 413 yards last year. Even more concerning is the fact that Holloway didn’t score a single rushing touchdown. He did have 5 receiving.
They do get back their top threat on the outside in senior wide out Fred Ross. He had 88 receptions for 1,007 yards and 5 touchdowns. However, they do lose their best red-zone target in De’Runnya Wilson (10 touchdowns). It’s unlikely Ross will come close to last year’s numbers without Prescott.
Prescott’s mobility also covered up any inefficiencies on the offensive line. So while they get back 3 starters and add in a talented juco transfer, the unit might not be as productive.
The one constant over the years has been the Mississippi State defense. The Bulldogs have allowed 24 or fewer points/game in each of the last 6 years. With just 3 starters back in 2015, they only gave up 23.2 ppg. They also set a school record with 98 tackles for loss.
This year they have 6 starters returning, but lose defensive coordinator Manny Diaz. His replacement is Peter Sirmon, who was the associate head coach at USC the last two years.
The Bulldogs run a 3-4 scheme and for it to work need to be at their best up front. The good news is that even with the loss of their star defensive end Chris Jones, they look just as strong. The unit will be led by senior defensive end A.J. Jefferson.
At linebacker they return senior Richie Brown, who earned 3rd-Team All-SEC honors in 2015. The other three spots are up for grabs. However, one spot figures to go to red-shirt freshman Leo Lewis.
The secondary looks to be in good shape, with 3 of the 4 starters back. The player to keep an eye on is sophomore strong safety Brandon Bryant. He only started 8 games and led the team with 3 interceptions. He was also 5th in tackles with 63.
Regular Season Win Total
SEC West Odds
SEC Championship Odds
National Championship Odds
Odds Courtesy of 5Dimes
*Odds updated live on our college football odds page
I’ll admit I thought the Bulldogs would struggle to win 7 games last year and they won 9. I clearly didn’t give Prescott and Mullen enough respect. However, I’m not letting that change my opinion for 2016.
I believe the loss of Prescott is going to hurt this team on all levels. The offense will struggle to score points and move the chains. Which in turn means the defense will be on the field more.
I actually think I’m giving Mullen the benefit of the doubt here and calling form them to go 6-6. Either way the win total is sitting at 7.5, which means they would have to go 8-4 to cash the OVER. I’ll take my chances that doesn’t happen, even with the favorable schedule.
Win Total Prediction