Bulldog Football Scouting Report

The Game: #22 Mississippi State (7-2, 3-2 SEC) is on the road to meet #9 Louisiana State (7-2, 3-2). Kickoff at Tiger Stadium is 6:00 for ESPN telecast, with the Bulldog network pregame broadcast beginning at 4:00.

*Mississippi State has slid from a season-highest ranking of #13 (AP) after consecutive losses. That was the highest ranking of Coach Dan Mullen's four seasons so far and best by a Bulldog team since the 1999 team reached #8.

*This is the 16th game out of Mullen's 47 which State is itself ranked, with a 9-6 record so far. And Mullen teams are 2-13 against ranked opponents.

*Assured of a bowl berth for Mullen's third-straight season, matching the longest streak in school history, the Bulldogs are playing now for the best post-season address possible. *Mullen has 28 victories in four seasons. His next win will match W.D. Chadwick for fourth-most among all MSU coaches.

*LSU is playing its fifth-consecutive Top 25 opponent.

*Tiger teams haven't lost consecutive home games since 2001. Mississippi State has not won in Tiger Stadium since 1992, or beaten any LSU squad since 1999.

The Opponent: Let's see. Power ground game? Check. Unpredictable quarterbacking that leaves fans and foes equally guessing? Check. Defensive front of offensive-line size with receiver speed? Double-check. That wild-card factor on the sideline? Need you ask? Yep, it's another typical Tiger team. The physical lines were laid-out by (sorry) Nick Saban a dozen years ago and maintained successfully since by Les Miles, albeit with a much more amusing manner which suits the eternal Tiger Stadium ambiance. Another SEC title is out of reach, much less the BCS. But there isn't a big bowl in the land which wouldn't throw out the welcome mat if LSU wins-out the regular schedule.

Offense: They don't actually lead the SEC in total rushing. What LSU has is the best overall stable of running backs in the entire league, legitimately four-deep. Here's why: the quartet have this season carried from 77 to 63 times, and the maybe best of the bunch—Alfred Blue with his 6.8-per-carry rate—hasn't played in four weeks with injury. Spencer Ware (268 yards) is listed the starter but it doesn't matter. Jeremy Hill (429, 8 TDs), Kenny Hilliard (420, 6) and Michael Ford (370, 3) all take their turns and produce. As they should, gripe defensive coordinators seeking schemes to beat that offensive line. Senior P.J. Lonergan will get his 35 start at center Saturday, and after three missed games 334-pound Josh Williford is due back this week at right guard. Casting the largest shadow is true freshman Vadal Alexander, the 350-pound right tackle. Good thing Zach Mettenberger stands 6-5, otherwise the quarterback would struggle to see over his protection. The one-time Georgia backup had a tough three-game stretch of 43% passing with two picks and one touchdown, then looked all-league for much of the evening against Alabama at 24-of-35 for 298 yards. If that Mettenberger shows up there'll be joy among wideouts Jarvis Landry (31 catches, 2 TDs), Odell Beckham Jr. (30, 3), Kadron Boone (19, 4) and others. Still this offense knows how it wants to, umm, run having scored 21 of 29 touchdowns to-date on rushes.

Defense: Here's all Bulldog fans need—not that they'll want to—know about LSU run defense. Johnny Manziel netted 134 yards against the Tigers. We could probably leave the rest of this section blank but duty demands details. Such as just 19 points allowed through nine first quarters this season, including a shutout of Alabama. Three of the four line starters are up for the top national awards at their positions, two of them multiple honors. And the entire unit has tackles for losses adding up to a complete game's offense for some opponents. We'll stop now. As a (first) group this is not quite as humongous a line as we're used to seeing; that is no starter is over 300 pounds. The backup tackles are though and yes, they play. It's the ends who make huge things happen. Barkevious Mingo already has three sacks and nine hurries, while Sam Montgomery has five sacks of his own and ten stops for losses. Just double those numbers should they play on different teams, and both juniors are pro candidates already. Meanwhile LB Kevin Minter is a Butkus semifinalist with 82 tackles and three sacks from the middle slot. For comparison WLB Lamin Barrow is second in tackles with 61. Given all the talent in front of them it's amazing how many stops the safeties have scored; 57 for free Eric Reid and 35 for strong Craig Loston. And nine total Tigers have intercepted a pass. No wonder this unit is 2nd in SEC passing defense with seven touchdowns against 13 picks. Sometimes getting sacked isn't the worst outcome.

Specialists: Given the caliber of defense, it just isn't fair P Brad Wing has a 44.4 yard average. For his whole career. That's best in LSU records too. PK Drew Alleman is 13-of-20 on field goals but in his defense three of the misses were 50-plus range. He's made 94-straight PATs. The Tigers have 21 touchback kickoffs (opponents? nine). And State's stout punt coverage is going to be tested by Beckham with a 7.9-yard average and 70-yard touchdown on the resume this season.

Bulldog Notebook: Last week Mississippi State led the NCAA in turnover ratio at +17. The Bulldogs have slipped in the last two games but still stand 6th-best in the country at +13. That is second in the SEC to Alabama at +17.

*State's 21 turnovers gained, all in the first seven games, are tied for 19th nationally. The dozen interceptions are tied for 17th.

*Where the Bulldogs still lead the nation is punt return yardage. Through nine games opponents have netted zero yards, and for that matter have tried to return just eight of P Baker Swedenburg's 38 punts.

*The Dog defense comes in only 82nd in NCAA sacks this year. But the offense has allowed just nine in as many games, 14th-best in the country this week.

*LB Benardrick McKinney barely leads LB Cam Lawrence in the team tackles race, 73 to 72. And both ‘backers have 59 tackles in SEC games.

*Speaking of well-matched; cornerbacks Johnthan Banks and Darius Slay (and 11 other players around the country) are tied for 12th nationally with four interceptions this season.

*The offense had averaged almost 15 plays of ten-or-more yards through four SEC games. They had just nine against Texas A&M though. The high is 20 against Tennessee.

*During their seven-win streak the Bulldog offense was 54% rushes (scrambles and sacks included) and 46% passes. In the last two losses, falling behind 24-0 at halftime each game, the breakdown is 48 rushes and 66 passes thrown.

*Despite just three touchdowns in the last two weekends, this offense is scoring 30.1 points per game. That's within reach of the modern-era record of 31.7 set in 1994.

*In the seven wins Russell was 122-of-203 passing, or 60%, with one interception and 15 touchdowns. In the two losses Russell was 34-of-60, still 57%, but with two picks and one touchdown.

*Russell is racing up all sorts of Mississippi State charts, season and career both. He just had his fifth 200-yard passing game of the season, and needs one more to match the record of six shared by Tommy Pharr, Dave Marler, and Derrick Taite.

*One record he does now share is touchdowns, his 16 scoring passes tied with Taite's 1995 mark.

*His 1,954 yards this year are fifth-most by a Bulldog passer and Marler's record of 2,422 is well within Russell's reach in the regular season. Russell also needs 30 more completions to tie Kevin Fant's 2003 mark of 186.

*Russell's SEC game completions have averaged 11.7 yards; while the non-SEC rate is 14.1 yards.

*A junior, Russell could and should become the program's most prolific passer ever. He is already 8th in yardage and fifth in touchdowns (29) having played just 27 games with 13 starts.

*A beneficiary of Russell's prowess, WR Chad Bumphis is finishing his career on a fast track. The senior now holds the touchdown receptions record with 18 all to himself. His seven scores this season trail only Justin Jenkins who had nine in 2003 and eight in 2001.

*Bumphis has five touchdown catches in SEC games. One of those was last weekend against Texas A&M.

*Bumphis is up to 135 career catches, fourth-best in MSU history and four out of third place. And he is 5th in yardage at 1,884.

*He has at least one catch in all his 45 career games, missing only in the 2010 UAB game. He is on a 26-game receiving streak.

*Through seven games RB LaDarius Perkins was averaging over 100 yards. In the last two weekends he has rushed for 38 and 42 yards on 15 and 13 carries.

*He also has not rushed for a touchdown in the two losses. Perkins had a touchdown in every MSU victory this year, two against Jackson State.

*Perkins remains on course for a 1,000-yard season, something done only eleven times at State before. He has 804 yards through nine games.

*Perkins has not caught a touchdown pass so far this season, after scoring on five throws the first two years.

*In his backup passer role QB Dak Prescott has two touchdowns on just 19 throws. As a substitute runner, he has three touchdowns on 20 carries.

*In his last three seasons, WR Chris Smith has caught two or more passes in 26 out of 34 games.

*Smith averaged 24 yards on his three catches at Alabama, and 15 on four grabs against Texas A&M. In the previous three wins he'd averaged nine yards per catch.

*WR Arceto Clark has 18 catches in the last five games.

*WR Robert Johnson has earned a bigger place in the gameplans. In the last three games he has eight catches, 75 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

*It's feast or famine for TE Marcus Green. He had a four-game receiving streak going, with 11 grabs, then didn't get a ball last week. The senior is averaging 11.2 yards per reception this season, and four of his five touchdowns have come in SEC games.

*Green is looking to finally snap his ‘cap' on gains. In 2008, '09, and '11 he had one catch each year that went for 50 yards. His longest this season is a 30-yarder against Auburn.

*The three Bulldog tight end targets average 11.4 yards every reception, but none got the ball last week.

*OG Gabe Jackson will make his 36th consecutive start.

*DT Josh Boyd blocked a field goal last week, his second rejection at State.

*Having matched the career record with 16 interceptions, Banks bids to become Mississippi State's all-time picks leader. He's even for now with Walt Harris' 1992-95 record.

*Banks and SS Corey Broomfield do remain tied with three career touchdown returns, one ahead of Slay. Banks has 124 yards' worth of returns on his four interceptions this season.

*Banks has three two-interception games in his career, one this season (Auburn).

*Banks just surpassed the 200-tackles standard, with 203 through his 47 games.

*Broomfield is tied for 7th himself in the career-picks list, with ten.

*Slay has gone six games without an interception, after notching four in the first three contests. Slay has five career picks, two returned for touchdowns (Georgia 2011, Jackson State 2012).

*Slay has averaged 31.6 yards returns on his picks.

*FS Nickoe Whitley has eight career interceptions of his own. So the current starting State secondary quartet has 39 picks between them.

*Lawrence now has 243 career tackles in 45 games. And the senior has had double-digit stops in three of the last four games. He matched his season-best with 13 against A&M last week.

*Lawrence has scored a sack in his last three games, after getting a passer down just once in the first six games.

*PK Devon Bell is 9-of-15 on field goals. He did have a seven-make streak going, but is one for the last three and all those on the home field.

*Five Bulldogs have played in all 47 games under Mullen: Banks, DT Josh Boyd, Broomfield, FB Sylvester Hemphill, and WR Brandon Heavens. None have started every game. Banks has the most Mullen-era starts with 39.

*Five true freshmen have played: PK Bell, DT Nick James, DT Quay Evans, DE Ryan Brown, and CB Cedric Jiles. Only three true freshmen played in both 2010 and '11.

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