Back Five Reasons Mississippi State Could be a Sleeper

Back To SEC

Five Reasons Mississippi State Could be a Sleeper

By Matt Osborne
SouthernPigskin.com
Follow us at Twitter.com/SouthernPigskin.  Become a fan at the SouthernPigskin.com Facebook Page

Following a 7-6 campaign in 2013, the Mississippi State Bulldogs have legitimate reason to believe that 2014 will produce even better results.

Following a 7-6 campaign in 2013, the Mississippi State Bulldogs have legitimate reason to believe that 2014 will produce even better results.

No. 1 – Momentum

There is no doubt that the Bulldogs were playing their best football coming down the stretch in 2013. After losing surprisingly competitive contests to Texas A&M and Alabama in back to back weeks, Mississippi concluded the campaign by winning its final three games of the season; included in that winning streak were overtime victories over divisional foes Arkansas and Ole Miss, as well as a 44-7 drubbing of Rice in the Liberty Bowl. Although it seemed, at one point, that the Bulldogs were destined to miss out on postseason participation for the first time since 2009, the team was able to generate some much-needed positive momentum in late-November that should carry over into 2014.

No. 2 – Favorable Schedule

It is hard to find such thing as a “favorable schedule” playing in the SEC West, but the Bulldogs’ 2014 slate is about as generous as it is ever going to get. Mississippi State’s non-conference opponents – Southern Miss, UAB, South Alabama and Tennessee-Martin – should provide four easy additions to the win column when all is said and done. Traversing the divisional schedule will be an arduous task, but the Bulldogs do have the fortune of drawing Kentucky and Vanderbilt out of the SEC East. There are no guaranteed wins in the conference, but Mississippi State has more “winnable” games on the docket than it did a year ago.

No. 3 – Experience

Mississippi State is set to return 16 starters from last season, a number which ties the Bulldogs with Kentucky for the most in the conference. The Bulldogs’ returning experience will come particularly in handy along the line-of-scrimmage, as Dan Mullen’s squad loses just one starter along the defensive front and two starters along the offensive line. Relative stability in the coaching staff and scheme also ensures that these players will be playing like veterans from the first snap of the season.

No. 4 – Defensive Prowess

With all of the great defensive teams in the SEC, it may be difficult for some to fathom that Mississippi State finished fourth in the conference in total defense in 2013, allowing just 349.3 yards per contest. Defensive lineman Chris Jones will spend significant time at both tackle and end, and he should prove to be one of the league’s most disruptive forces up front. The Bulldogs did a very nice job of forcing turnovers in their first year in Geoff Collins’ “Mayhem” defense, but they will need to find a way to increase the pass rush this fall. Given all of the returning experience, there is no reason to think that Mississippi State won’t possess one of the conference’s elite defenses in 2014.

No. 5 – Dak Prescott

Prescott wasn’t even the full-time starter a year ago, but he certainly proved what he is capable of doing when given a chance to perform. Always known for his dual-threat abilities under center, Prescott ended up leading the Bulldogs in rushing with 829 yards and 13 touchdowns. While his passing numbers weren’t quite as impressive, they also weren’t that porous. He continued to show improvement with his arm as the season progressed, as all three of his worst performances in terms of completion percentage came in the first five games of the season. Now stepping into his role as the unquestioned leader of the offense, and with all of his tight ends and wide receivers returning, Prescott has a chance to become one of the elite signal callers in the conference.

Matt Osborne - Matt Osborne currently serves as the director of recruiting and lead editor for Southern Pigskin. His work has been published in a number of national publications, including USA Today. Although he loves all levels of football, Matt's number one joy in his life is his relationship with Jesus Christ. Follow Matt on Twitter: @MattOsborne200. For media requests, please email Matt at matt@southernpigskin.com.