Location: Starkville, Missisippi
2012 Record: 8-5
Coach: Dan Mullen (29-22)
Offense: The Bulldogs weren’t a very explosive offense in 2012 and they lose three of their top four wide receivers, including do-it-all weapon Chad Bumphis. They do however, return QB Tyler Russell (who has seemingly been around forever) and bruising RB Ladarius Perkins. They also return a lot of talent along the offensive line, helping open holes for Perkins and keep Russell off his back. If they can do that and some weapons develop in the passing game, keep an eye on newcomers Fred Ross and Jeremy Chapelle, MSU could finally put a good offense on the field to complement their typically stout defense.
Defense: The defense loses both starting corners to the NFL draft and top LB Cameron Lawrence. DL Josh Boyd was a presence of defense as well. As mentioned earlier, MSU usually has a stout defense but they have slipped a little the last two years and weren’t really feared with those four playmakers that have moved on. The talent is certainly there if you believe recruiting rankings, but production has been hard to come by so far. The defense will be led by senior LB Deonte Skinner but their success may depend on how super-frosh Chris Jones plays this year.
The Rundown: There are seniors at key positions but this is a young team overall and it is a bit of a rebuilding year. This has always been a team that wasn’t separated from Kentucky by much in terms of talent but always seemed to find a way to beat the Cats. The past few years the gap widened a bit, but this year could see the streak snapped. The Bulldogs are good, but it’s always a close game between the two. Between two very young teams, it could come down to scheme and/or conditioning, which likely favors the Wildcats. Especially if they can come out of the toughest part of their schedule relatively healthy.