2011 Mississippi State Bulldogs Football Predictions and BCS Futures Odds
by Nicholas Tolomeo - 7/7/2011
The last time we saw the Bulldogs they were blasting Michigan, 52-14, in the Gator Bowl and chasing Rich Rodriguez out of Ann Arbor. That seems like an eternity ago, but nobody around college football is about to forget that the Bulldogs vaulted themselves back into the national spotlight with their nine-win season and bowl win.
There is plenty of buzz for this program around Starkville. In late June the Athletic Department announced that it had sold out of season tickets. The excitement has as much to do with what happened last season as what may lie ahead.
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Dan Mullen inherited a challenge when he took over the Bulldogs before the 2009 season. His challenge this time may be even tougher, to follow up the nine-win season now that his Bulldogs are no longer under-the-radar.
Through two seasons Mullen is 14-11 overall in Starkville. The last coach to post a winning record at the program was Darrell Royal in 1954. He went 12-8 in two seasons before leaving for great fame at Texas.
Eight starters return on offense. The Bulldogs offense will be predicated on the run, but quarterback Chris Relf will have to do more with his arm than his legs to keep opposing defenses honest and allow the rushing game to develop. Last season Relf attempted 219 passes, but he also ran the ball 194 times. Relf, along with Vick Ballard (186 rushes for 968 yards) and LaDarius Perkins (101 rushes for 566 yards), carried the load on offense often times facing stacked defenses aimed at stopping the run.
Relf developed more into a passer as the season went on last year. In the Gator Bowl he was superb, completing 18 of 23 passes for 281 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. He will have three returning starters back on the offensive line along with Ballard in the backfield and his favorite target from last season, Chad Bumphis (44 receptions for 634 yards).
The loss of Defensive Coordinator Manny Diaz to Texas could be a big deal. The Bulldogs ranked 22nd in the country last season, allowing 19.9 points per game, an improvement from 2009 when it ranked 71st in scoring defense.
The defensive losses go beyond coaching. Defensive end Pernell McPhee and linebackers Chris White and K.J. Wright are gone. They were the heart of the Bulldogs defense last season, but the there are seven starters back, including the entire secondary but that could be a bad thing considering the Mississippi State defensive backs were scorched to the tune of 238 yards per game last season (91st in the country).
2011 Mississippi State Bulldogs Football Schedule
It’s hard enough to try and navigate the gauntlet that is the SEC schedule for a program like Mississippi State. It is even harder with an inside-out schedule like the Bulldogs were handed this season. They open the season with a road trip to Memphis on Thursday night before heading to play the defending national champions, Auburn, on the road in Week 2 and the SEC opener. After that is a home data with LSU and then they finally get a much-needed break with a home game against Louisiana Tech. Other nonconference games against UAB and Tennessee-Martin are scattered about amongst the SEC opponents, which sort of defeats the whole purpose of scheduling those games. Along with Sept. 15 against LSU, other big time home dates in Starkville are on Oct. 15 when South Carolina comes to town and Nov. 12 when Alabama pays a visit.
2011 Mississippi State Bulldogs BCS Futures Odds
The Bulldogs are far from the underdogs in the SEC West. Their odds of +600 to win the division are actually better than those of a rebuilding Auburn program (+1000) and Egg Bowl rival Ole Miss (+1500). Alabama at –160 is the favorite to win the division on WagerWeb. Mississippi State is listed at +1200 to win the SEC, and on Bodog they are listed as 60/1 to win the BCS National Championship.
2011 Mississippi State Bulldogs Football Predictions
For the challenges that are ahead for Mississippi State, the odds are nowhere near enticing enough to warrant a bet on the Bulldogs. Their impressive 2010 campaign can be blamed for the lack of juicy odds. Competing each Saturday in the SEC will not be a problem for this group, but finding wins consistently might be. It would be tough to imagine the Bulldogs improving on their 9-4 season last year, especially now that they are a known commodity. Look for a slight drop off for Mississippi State this year and a seven-win season.
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