#83 Mississippi St. Bulldogs Forward

Spring practices are already in the books and fall camps will be here before you know it, which means you’ll have an early jump into the 2006 NCAA football season. Knowing the teams now will save you time. in August and Matt Fargo is here to help you understand what to expect this coming year. We go from worst to first in this 2006 college football trailer.

#83 – Mississippi St. Bulldogs 3-8 SU; 4-6 ATS

Fargo’s Take Hard times have fallen to the once-proud Mississippi St. program, but things are looking up and the Bulldogs have a chance to have their best year since 2000. They haven’t won more than three games a year since, per what the best year could be still means only a 4-8 record and that won’t make the Starkville faithful very happy. Mississippi St. had one of the worst offenses in the country last season, which was disappointing because it brought a very solid defense to the field. The Bulldogs finished 29th in total defense and 44th in scoring defense, but were of little use as the offense was shutout twice and scored 10 points or less five times. The offense will be better as will the defense, but how much better on both sides will determine how much improvement there will be in the win column. This is the third season of Sylvester Croom’s experiment and things need to start looking up quickly for him to stick around for the long haul.

Returning starters on offense – 8 The offense scored 38 points in the opener against 1-AA Murray St. but didn’t score more than 21 points until late in the season against rival ‘Ole Miss. If there’s any good news out of that, it’s that this year’s starting quarterback Michael Henig was in charge in that game against the Rebels, so it could be a sign of things to come. The biggest loss across the board is running back Jerious Norwood, the school’s all-time leading rusher, and his replacement will be a running back by committee. Up to four running backs are expected to contribute, led by sophomore Brandon Thornton, and all four have different styles, so could pose problems for opposing defenses. The offensive line averages close to 313 pounds and will provide running space and protection. Former quarterback Omarr Conner could be a star at receiver.

Returning starters defense – 9 The defense did its best to keep the Bulldogs in games last season, but with the anemic offense, it just wasn’t good enough. With the return of nine starters, that defense could be even better and could pose problems for some of the SEC’s elite teams. The seven forwards can compete with anyone in the conference led by tackle Deljuan Robinson and linebacker Quinton Culberson. The run defense allowed 3.7 ypc, the fewest since 2000, but there’s still room for improvement as five teams rushed for 172-plus yards. The passing defense was excellent and should be strong once again with three returning starters. The Bulldogs have not allowed a 200-yard passer in their last four games and have allowed 218-plus passing yards just three times all season. The defense will be asked to keep things close once again, but some of the pressure should be eased with an improved offense.

Schedule Most teams have an early bye in the schedule with a few non-conference games, but the Bulldogs are being thrown into the fire with the first two games against South Carolina and Auburn. The only good news from that is that they are both home. Additionally, three of the four non-conference games are at home, including a game against Big East powerhouse West Virginia. The only away game in that group is at UAB, a very winnable game. Three SEC road games at LSU, Georgia and Alabama will be impossible, while a home game against Kentucky and the road finale against Mississippi can be had. The highlight of the SEC slate might be missing out on Florida and Tennessee, but the Bulldogs also miss a weak Vanderbilt team. Five of the first seven games are at home, so a quick start is a must.

You can bet… Mississippi St. is going to pull off a big upset this year, as this team is going to sneak up on a lot of teams. That game could be the first against South Carolina, which could already be eyeing Georgia the following week. With a defense like the Bulldogs should have, a lot of good things can happen. Mississippi St. has not had a winning ATS record since 2001, having gone 14-28 against the number since then. It’s going to change at some point and this could be the year it happens. The Bulldogs have gone 21 straight road games in conference action without a win and that streak will likely continue throughout the season all the way to Mississippi, where they have a shot. However, the Rebels will be in a bad mood after last year’s 21-point embarrassment.

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