Mississippi State 59 ... at Memphis 14

Posted Sep 1, 2011

Week 1 CFN Fearless Prediction - Mississippi St at Memphis

2011 Predictions & Game Story 

Week 1 - Miss State at Memphis

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Sept. 1 Mississippi State 59 … at Memphis 14
CFN Analysis: The Mississippi State offense was humming on all cylinders, but it also helped that the Memphis defense was nowhere in sight. Everything worked for the Bulldogs, and while Vick Ballard will get the game ball after running ten times for 166 yards and three touchdowns, the defense did its part stoning the Tiger offense time and again. Tyler Russell came in with the game well out of reach and was terrific, while Chris Relf was good, but could've been better on third downs. With a long offseason after the blowout over Michigan, this was exactly the type of opening MSU wanted before diving into SEC play against Auburn and LSU over the next 14 days. If the offensive line can blast open holes like it did this week, and if the offense can explode like it did, even with the backups in, the team might be the real deal.

Nothing worked. Memphis barely showed up on D as the front line was destroyed by Mississippi State from the start and the secondary struggled way too much for the entire game. The blowout gave freshman quarterback Taylor Reed plenty of time to work, and while he wasn't awful, he didn't do much to push the ball down the field and the offense went next to nowhere far too often. The running game didn't have a chance, and the passing attack was averaging just over four yards per play; that's not good enough to get by, even against a strong team like MSU. Arkansas State and Austin Peay should help make the Tigers look good over the next few weeks, but the penalties, the mental mistakes, and the sloppiness has to stop.

(AP) -- Vick Ballard rushed for 166 yards and three touchdowns and No. 20 Mississippi State easily handled Memphis 59-14 on Thursday night at the Liberty Bowl.

Mississippi State dominated from the start, taking a 31-7 lead after gaining 405 total yards in the first half. Things slowed down a little after that, but the Bulldogs still finished with a school-record 645 total yards. Ballard had touchdown runs of 46 and 66 yards in the first half. He added a 1-yard touchdown early in the third quarter and averaged 16.6 yards per carry against the Tigers' porous defense.

MSU quarterback Chris Relf completed 13 of 21 passes for 202 yards and two touchdowns for MSU. He also rushed for 51 yards. Jameon Lewis caught four passes for 113 yards and a touchdown.

Mississippi State (1-0) has won 12 straight against Memphis (0-1), dating back to 1993.

Mississippi State announced two hours before the game that five players would be suspended for a variety of offseason rules violations, including starting defensive tackle Fletcher Cox. But the Bulldogs didn't need the help, rolling up and down the field with regularity.

MSU opened the scoring with a 44-yard touchdown pass from Relf to a wide-open Chad Bumphis. From that point, the rout was on, with Bulldogs routinely finding open space.

Mississippi State has aspirations of competing in the loaded Southeastern Conference Western Division, which has five of six teams ranked. The Bulldogs certainly looked the part on Thursday, but Memphis was so bad it was hard to tell exactly what that meant.

MSU's starters were out of the game by midway through the third quarter. The Tigers were looking for some optimism after a dismal 1-11 season in 2010 under first-year head coach Larry Porter. But none was in sight as Memphis looked woefully overmatched and undisciplined from the start, with four penalties in the first nine offensive plays. It never got much better.

The Memphis offense didn't cross midfield until midway through the second quarter, and rarely put together any sustained drives. The Tigers switched quarterbacks a couple times, alternating freshman Taylor Reed and sophomore Andy Summerlin. Nothing worked. Reed completed 23-of-35 passes for 149 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

Artaves Gibson rushed for 85 yards on 17 carries. But the offense wasn't Memphis' main problem.

It was defense.

Mississippi State averaged more than nine yards per play and scored the program's most points away from Scott Field since 1936. Almost everything the Bulldogs tried worked, except for a fake punt that was snuffed out quickly by the Tigers. It seemed like everyone from MSU joined in the fun. Backup quarterback Tyler Russell completed 5 of 9 passes for 138 yards and a touchdown. He also rushed for a 26-yard touchdown. Redshirt freshman Jameon Lewis caught four passes for 113 yards in his first college game.

Mississippi State (0-0) vs. Memphis (0-0)
Sept. 1, 8:00 
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Here's The Deal … For Mississippi State, the third season under head coach Dan Mullen kicks off on the road in a game it should win in a walk if everything is going according to plan. Coming off a nine-win season, the expectations are high with nine starters back on the offensive side of the ball led by fifth-year senior QB Chris Relf and senior RB Vick Ballard, the Bulldogs should improve on their 2010 offensive numbers after finishing 42nd in the nation in yards.

While second-year Larry Porter and his Memphis Tigers get the chance to open the season with an SEC team trekking to their home field, it's not all roses going into the season with a ton of work to do. Coming off a 1-11 season in his first year as head coach, Porter enters the season with a very young team, a new offensive scheme, and very low expectations. The attack will rely on junior WR Marcus Rucker and sophomore back Jerrell Rhodes, who was able to get his feet wet as a freshman, and now needs to blow up. This year is about showing signs of improvement, and any positive moments at home against the Bulldogs will work wonders.

Why Mississippi State Might Win: The offense should be able to roll against a Memphis defense that's going to need time and seasoning. Relf and Ballard led a Bulldogs offense last year with the running game, but now there's more to throw at mediocre teams like Memphis with a loaded receiving corps ready to produce more than they did last year. With every meaningful pass-catcher returning and Relf's improving decision-making, the Memphis defense is in trouble without the pass rush in place to throw off the timing, and without the secondary to come through with enough big plays. The Memphis line play isn't going to be as strong as it was last year.

Why Memphis Might Win: The MSU pass rush might not be there. Memphis couldn't do anything to protect the passer last season, and the O line doesn't appear to be appreciably better. Fortunately, the Pernell McPhee-less Bulldog defensive line isn't likely to generate too much consistent pressure. Mentally, Mississippi State will almost certainly be looking ahead to the Auburn showdown, and while everyone is saying all the right things about focusing on Memphis, don't believe it. The MSU defense lost all three starters at linebacker as well as coordinator Manny Diaz. With a talented back in Jerrell Rhodes entering his sophomore year, he has the size and skills to be able to find some running lanes and has the ability to shorten the game by carrying the Memphis offense. By spreading out the Mississippi State defense and using some misdirection, the Tigers may be able to get Rhodes to the second level to get to MSU's most inexperienced unit. Meanwhile, top target Marcus Rucker will be asked to provide some big plays out in space and to keep the defense from loading the box against the run, and he could provide a bit of balance.

What To Watch Out For: Memphis finished 120th in the nation – dead last – in pass efficiency defense, and MSU receivers Chad Bumphis, Arceto Clark, and Chris Smith need to take advantage. Bumphis has a gimpy ankle, but he's expected to see time and he should come up with a great opener if the safety isn't rolled his well. For Memphis, it'll all come down to the running game and Rhodes who provides a rock to lean on while the team breaks in a new offensive philosophy. With the skills to play in the ACC – he was originally a North Carolina recruit - he should find plenty of success after a year of experience.

What Will Happen: Despite looking ahead, MSU should be able to roll against a Tiger team that's outmanned and overmatched; MU will provide little resistance to Relf and company. The MSU defense will dominate early on, while the offense will come up with an early lead and should stay comfortable the rest of the way.

CFN Prediction: Mississippi State 41 … Memphis 13 
- Click For Latest Line From ATS: Miss St -27.5   O/U:50
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