Bulldog Football Scouting Report

The Game: Mississippi State (2-2, 0-2 SEC) returns to the road, and conference play, with a inter-Division matchup at Georgia. The matchup of Bulldog teams kicks off at noon e.t. for FOX Sports South telecast. The broadcast is on XM199 and Sirius220.

*Neither Bulldog squad enters this game with a ranking, though both were in the polls to begin this season. Mississippi State has not lost to an unranked opponent since Arkansas in November 2009.

*Dan Mullen has seven SEC victories at State. Five have been against Eastern Division opponents.

*Georgia was 0-3 against the SEC West last season. In the previous four years they were 12-2 in inter-Divisional play.

*This is Mullen's first trip as a head coach or assistant to Athens, the only SEC campus he has not visited for a game whether with Florida or MSU.

*Georgia, like State, plays only six campus games this season. But the other Bulldogs did open their season in nearby Atlanta in the Georgia Dome; and will end the regular slate in the big city as well against rival Georgia Tech.

The Opponent: Need confirmation of fan foolishness regarding their coaches? Look no further than the Sanford Stadium home sideline this weekend. Or maybe a better outside evaluation is to say today's fans just get bored faster and acts lose their sparkle over time. How else to explain popular pressures on 11th-year Coach Mark Richt considering what he's done in a decade? Admittedly a 14-12 mark the last two seasons and trips to Shreveport and Memphis aren't what is expected in Georgia. And it's fair to say these Bulldogs haven't fully seized East opportunity when the Division was down for the taking. But with just six listed senior starters, two excellent offensive headliners, and a defense as athletic as any, don't count Georgia out in this year's East race just yet. Or Richt out either as all the underclassman talent develops. Of course they're on the way back in Gainesville and Knoxville, too, so…

Offense: Here's why preseason depth charts are worth less than the ink invested. Of the six tailbacks listed in the summer guide, none are in this week's two deep. But then the book had to be printed before Isaiah Crowell ever touched the ball in a real game. And of course expectations were high for Scout.com's top-ranked runner not just in Georgia but the nation. The true frosh has affirmed that judgment with a brilliant start, averaging 103 yards (133 in SEC games) with 5.3 per carry and a couple of touchdowns. Thing is, he's starting now because junior Richard Samuel was hurt early. It helps having returning rushing leader Carlton Thomas (5.4 per carry, 1 TD) in rotation as well. What really aids the ground game though is the blatant throwing threat of soph QB Aaron Murray. A 61% passer as a freshman, he's hitting almost 64% so far this year with eleven TDs and just three interceptions. Don't let his negative-net rushing fool you, Murray (no kin to the editor this side of Scotland) doesn't mind scrambling for a first down of his own making. Maybe there's no established receiving star out there…yet. But frosh Malcolm Mitchell has jumped to the forefront with two scores and a 14.8 average on his 17 grabs. Junior Tavarres King (10, 11.7, 3 TD) works the other wide routes, while a defense has to scheme for TE Orson Charles (13, 16.2, 3 TD) slicing up coverage all over the place. The offensive questions focus up front where a rebuilt line with two returning starters has had injury issues. Protection issues, too, with 11 sacks already allowed. Lt Cordy Glenn opted for a senior season in college, leaving that side shored even with injury shuffling both guard spots. UG is glad to get RT Justin Anderson back after missing a whole year, too. Also, ignore this unit's red-zone ranking of 10th in the league; twelve trips there have produced ten touchdowns. Better stop these Bulldogs farther away, or be ready to score in return.

Defense: Which isn't easy. Even after facing high-output outfits Boise State and South Carolina the UG Dogs are 3rd in SEC yardage defense and 7th in scoring. Oh, and second-best in stopping third downs where they allow just 25% conversions. What is easy, is seeing the difference a second season in this odd-front scheme makes. Of course it would have been foolish not switching to a 3-4 as soon as Kwame Gathers took off the red shirt for '10. He made freshman All-SEC at nose tackle and is still maturing at 6-6, 350 pounds. Oh, and he's not technically the biggest Bulldog; juco John Jenkins is officially a pound stouter. Which makes the starting ends, at under 310 pounds each, seem mere striplings. If the front was merely big that would be intimidating enough, but these Dogs can move. And do. Backing this line has to be great fun and certainly has done young OLB Jarvis Jones' stat account good with a team-best 23 tackles and 3.5 for losses. ILB Christian Robinson (21, 3.0) would probably be on top had he not missed two starts with an injury and he's not listed for this week either. It hasn't seemed a problem; ILB Michael Gilliard is on a tear with 15 tackles in just the last two victories. Both cornerbacks are returning starters with three picks last year by Brandon Boykin and another this season. SS Shawn Williams (16 tackles) might as well be another linebacker; in fact he is listed as a backup inside LB. The guy quarterbacks have to be aware of most though is FS Bacarri Rambo with four interceptions already despite missing the season opener. He's the biggest reason, but not the only one, that Georgia has a positive turnover ratio.

Specialists: Let's see, he was a semifinalist in '09 and a finalist in '10…so senior PK Blair Walsh oughta win the Groza Award this final time around, right? But he's missed half his ten field goal tries, albeit one of the makes was a 56-yarder, longest nationally, two weeks ago. He is third in career scoring at UG. The guy in second is the father of P Drew Butler, the '09 Guy Award winner. His 46.3 average is for a career, repeat, career, the all-time SEC leader. Speaking of records, CB Boykin holds the school mark for kickoff return yards.

The Series: This is the second-least-played series for State from the original SEC lineup, with just 22 meetings. Georgia leads 16-6 and up to last year had a nine-game win streak spanning 1975-2006. State has been to Athens less than any other original and still-active SEC location, with just a dozen visits since 1914. The last win there was in 1956. Only two times has MSU played at Georgia since the 1992 SEC expansion, losing in both 1997 and 2006.

Bulldog Notebook: Maybe they aren't running wild as in the first two weeks. Still the Bulldog ground game is getting its yards with 218 per game, third-best in the SEC and 26th best in the NCAA this week.

*Better defenses have kept State from extending the streak of 30-point games past five. The Dogs have managed 32 points in the last two games combined.

*The MSU offense has had nine series lasting ten snaps or more. But only one has produced a touchdown (at Memphis to end the game), and three have netted field goals.

*Nine of State's 15 total touchdowns have scored on plays of 20 yards or more, including an interception return and punt return.

*Bulldog teams have scored a rushing touchdown in 25 of Dan Mullen's 29 games. A passing touchdown, in 20 games.

*TB Vick Ballard opened the senior season with consecutive 100-yard games. In the next two games he has 115 total rushing yards. Ballard still checks in at 6th in SEC rushing average this week.

*Ballard has averaged 8.2 yards per carry in non-SEC games. His rate in conference games is still 4.9 yards each attempt.

*And Ballard is scoring a touchdown every 11.6 rushes. Of course he averaged a SEC-leading 9.8 rushes to touchdown as a junior.

*In September 2010 Ballard, sharing the ball in a three-tailback rotation, had 36 rushes. This past September as lead Dog he had 58 rushes.

*His 24 rushing scores are tied with Jackie Parker, John Bond, and James Johnson for 4th-best in program history.

*He is now alone in 8th for career points with 150.

*After catching ten passes last season, Ballard has eight grabs this year and is tied for the team lead with…

*His fellow tailback, LaDarius Perkins. The sophomore had netted just 12 yards on the first seven catches though. Then he hauled in a 17-yard overtime reception for touchdown, his first scoring catch since the Egg Bowl when Perkins did it twice.

*The most frequent ball-hauler though is QB Chris Relf with 65 carries in four games. Though he had a season-low nine rushes last week. Relf has accounted for 43 of State's 97 rushes in two SEC games.

*A 14-of-29 passing line against Tech was the first sub-.500 game for Relf since Kentucky last year. He still has a 58% completion rate this year, just under the 59% rate of 2010.

*But his average gain per completion is 11.3 yards, down from 12.4 last season. And he has thrown an interception in each of the last three games, the first such stretch of his college career.

*Relf still ranks as the second-most accurate passer in program history at 56.9%. He also is #2-best in career interception percentage.

*WR Chad Bumphis is one of two Dogs with a catch in all four games this season. In fact Bumphis has a reception in every game but one of his college career. The lone exception was UAB as a sophomore.

*His seven catches this season have netted 99 yards. That actually is better than the 11.7 yard average of his freshman season, and just a bit behind last year's 14.4 rate.

*Bumphis has ten career touchdown catches, tying him for 8th on the MSU career list. But only two of those have been in SEC games.

*He now is alone in 10th in career catches at 83.

*Bumphis has rushed four times this year for 39 yards. As a sophomore he got 131 yards on 19 rushes.

*In the first three games Bumphis did not get to return a punt. On his first chance in game-four, he went back to retrieve a long Louisiana Tech kick and after a bobble returned it all 82 yards for his first punt touchdown in college. He had 21 chances the first two years.

*Also counting kickoffs in 2009-10, the touchdown came on Bumphis' 46th return opportunity in college.

*Fellow WR Jameon Lewis shares KOR duty now with Perkins. But his big plays so far are at the offensive position where he leads the receiving corps with 132 yards, on six catches. But 113 of that came in the opening game and 80 on just one catch-and-run.

*Lewis did get to rush the ball three times last week, for 32 yards. On his five attempts so far Lewis has a 12-yard average and one touchdown, at Memphis.

*Lewis and Bumphis (2009 Georgia Tech) have the two touchdowns scored on end-around rushes under Mullen.

*Auburn snapped WR Chris Smith's receiving streak, but in the two games since he has five balls for 52 yards.

*WR Arceto Clark extended his receiving streak to eleven games.

*After going catch-less the first two games, not to mention missing most of last season with injury, TE Marcus Green is getting back to speed. He had a team-best three balls against LSU, then two more last week.

*WR Michael Carr had five grabs as well the first two games, and none in the pair of home games.

*After missing two games and ten-straight quarters with a knee injury, OT James Carmon is expected back in the lineup this week.

*Injuries gave freshman C Dillon Day his first college start last week, though he handled all but the first three snaps in the LSU game.

*OT Blaine Clausell started the last two games at left tackle. Clausell's name is on the receptions list after catching an illegal throw in the Auburn game. Clausell has also recovered an offensive fumble.

*Senior Quentin Saulsberry has started 40-straight games at four different positions. The only place he has not worked is left tackle.

*Despite injury issues and lineup changes, the Dogs have allowed just seven sacks, tied for 5th best in the SEC.

*And the Dog defense has scored eight sacks itself, tied for second in the league this week.

*Opponents have scored touchdowns on just six of their 12 trips inside State's red zone.

*Opponents have completed 71% of their passes against State so far, but the average gain is 6.0 yards.

*The 252 passing yards by Louisiana Tech was the most allowed by MSU's defense this year. But the Bulldogs came up with interceptions to force the overtime, then allow the offense to win it on the first turn.

*One of those picks went to CB Johnthan Banks, giving the junior a pick in three-straight games. The last Dog to do that was some guy named Smoot.

*Banks now has ten career interceptions, putting the junior in a five-way tie for 6th on the MSU list. And his three return-touchdowns, most recently at Auburn, tie him for the program record as well as the active NCAA lead.

*He is tied with fellow CB Corey Broomfield with three pick-sixes, though it has been eleven games since he ran one back for a touchdown.

*Broomfield is also still looking for his first interception, period, of 2011.

*Senior S Charles Mitchell added eight tackles to his career total last week, giving him 224 for his four seasons. He also got his first tackle-for-loss of the season last week, on a sack at that. It was the first sack of his college career in fact.

*LB Cameron Lawrence is close on Mitchell's heels with 33 tackles this season. For all 2010 Lawrence had 34 tackles.

*LB Brandon Wilson marked his return to the starting lineup with a 18-tackle night against Louisiana Tech, doubling his total stops for the season. It was the most tackles by a Bulldog since 2004 when Titus Brown had 18 against Arkansas.

*State already has as many defensive touchdowns (Banks at Auburn) as all last season.

*S Nickoe Whitley had the goal-line pick against Tech, his second of the season and fifth career.

*The five primary State defensive backs now have 28 interceptions among them.

*A year ago DTs Fletcher Cox and Josh Boyd ended up next to each other in total tackles. So far this season, they are tied at 13 stops each.

*Cox and Boyd have three blocked kicks between them, though none so far this season.

*The eight State sacks are parceled out among eight Dogs.

*P Baker Swedenburg has punted 24 times with eight going inside the 20-yard line, and ten fair-caught. His 40.9 yard average is 8th in the SEC this week.

*But only five of his punts have been returned, with the net of a negative five yards. Only Virginia Tech and LSU are better in this week's NCAA stats.

*State has not kicked off for touchback in 24 tries. The opponents have eight touchbacks in 22 chances.

*MSU ranks 118 out of 120 teams in kickoff return yardage.

*PK Derek DePasquale knocked through both his attempts last week, making him 27-of-32 career. He is the most accurate field goaler in program history at 84%.

*And he is perfect on PATs at 62-of-62.

*Only two true freshmen have played so far: DT P.J. Jones and S Dee Arrington. State played just three true frosh in 2010.

*All but one of the redshirted 2010 freshmen have now played. Only TB Nick Griffin has yet to see the field, after a spring knee injury, but he is expected to debut any weekend now.

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