Week 7 - Tennessee at Mississippi State

Posted Oct 10, 2012

Week 7 Fearless Predictions - Tennessee at Mississippi State

Tennessee (3-2) at Mississippi State (5-0) Oct. 13, 9:00, ESPN2

Here's The Deal: While everyone is gushing over South Carolina and Florida is making a great run, few are making a big deal out of a Mississippi State team off to its best start since 1999 going 5-0. It's a soft 5-0 with all five wins over teams that probably won't be bowling, but it's still a great first half of the season to tune everything up for the tough back half. However, with Middle Tennessee up next, if the Bulldogs can beat Tennessee for the first time since 1994, going 7-0 is a near lock before going to Alabama.

The Vols have been entertaining with the SEC's No. 1 passing offense and with the losses coming to Florida and Georgia, but with Alabama up next before going to South Carolina, the season could go into a nosedive if they can't come up with a road win this week. Derek Dooley isn't quite on a hot seat yet, but at the very least Tennessee needs to go to a bowl game and come up with a big, splashy win along the way. Beating MSU in Starkville wouldn't exactly move the national needle, but it would be an important victory for Dooley while further signaling a shift in conference power to the East.

Why Tennessee Might Win: It's not like Mississippi State is blowing anyone's doors off. It's getting by mediocre teams like Troy, Kentucky and South Alabama by doing what's needed, but not with any flash or dominance. Now the offense is going to have to ramp things up a few notches to keep pace with a Tennessee attack that's going to stretch the secondary for a full four quarters. Troy is the one team on the Bulldog slate that can throw, and Corey Robinson did putting up 343 yards, but with two picks, in the 30-24 loss. The MSU corners are a strength and the pass defense doesn't get beaten deep, but they also haven't had to deal with a passing game this strong and consistent. With little pass rush to worry about, Vol quarterback Tyler Bray will have way too long to operate. If he gets the chance to find his second or third option, he's deadly. Speaking of a mediocre pass rush …

Why Mississippi State Might Win: Tennessee isn't getting to the quarterback with just six sacks on the season and three of them coming against Georgia State. Mississippi State might not have the Tennessee passing game, but Tyler Russell has turned into a nice playmaker with the ability to pick apart defenses when given time to operate. Overall, the team has been terrific at keeping the big mistakes to a bare minimum turning the ball over just four times all year – with two fumbles coming against Kentucky last week – and with a mere 24 penalties on the season. The Tennessee defense takes the ball away, but the offense has given it up 11 times with four turnovers against Georgia.

What To Watch Out For: Tennessee's Cordarrelle Patterson hasn't done too much as a receiver with 21 catches for 290 yards and two scores, but he has been one of the SEC's most dynamic all-around players running eight times for 157 yards and two scores including a brilliant weaving touchdown against Georgia and averaging 28 yards per kickoff return. The coaching staff has several different plays designed to get him on the move, and when he has the ball with his hands in the open field, he's proving to be a gamebreaker. He and Justin Hunter will go against Mississippi State corners Johnthan Banks and Darius Slay in an NFL caliber matchup that scouts will break down over and over before next April.

What Will Happen: Mississippi State will grind the ball a bit with its running game, and Russell will have a huge day with time to operate, but the Tennessee offense will be too balanced and too effective. The Bulldogs won't be able to keep up the pace in a fun battle.

CFN Prediction: Tennessee 27 … Mississippi State 24
ATS Consultants Line (Click for more lines and picks) Tennessee -3 O/U: 57
Must Watch Rating (5 – Argo, 1 – Pitch Perfect): 3.5