Mississippi State Preview 2006

Posted Aug 8, 2006

Miss State Bulldogs Preview 2006

- Mississippi State Preview | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart | Further Analysis

So how much longer is it going to take to be respectable?

No one questioned that Sylvester Croom had a huge mountain to climb when he took over the program two seasons ago, and no one questioned that it would take a few years to get things back on track. However, with only nine wins over D-I teams in the last four years, you can understand that Bulldog fans are more than ready to start seeing some signs of life. Things should start to pick up this year.

Let's start with the positives. MSU knows it should be able to go into every game with a puncher's chance against just about anyone because of an experienced defense that was fantastic last year considering the offense provided no support. The kicking game should be terrific with the healthy return of placekicker Keith Andrews along with the big leg of punter Blake McAdams. Unlike other struggling teams in good conferences, the Bulldogs know they're solid in at least two phases. And then there's the offense.

Head coach: Sylvester Croom
3rd year: (6-16)
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 21, Def. 24, ST 4
Lettermen Lost: 19
Ten Best Bulldog Players
1. LB Quinton Culberson, Sr.
2. FS Jeramie Johnson, Sr.
3. DT Deljuan Robinson, Sr.
4. NT Andrew Powell, Sr.
5. CB Derek Pegues, Soph.
6. TE Eric Butler, Jr.
OG Brian Anderson, Sr.
FB Bryson Davis, Sr. Jr.
WR Tony Burks,
P Blake McAdams, Soph.

2006 Schedule
CFN Prediction:

8/31 South Carolina
9/9 Auburn
9/16 Tulane
9/23 at UAB
9/30 at LSU
10/7 West Virginia
10/14 Jacksonville State
10/21 at Georgia
10/28 Kentucky
11/4 at Alabama
11/18 Arkansas
11/25 at Ole Miss

2005 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2005 Record: 3-8

Preview 2005 predicted wins

9/3 Murray State  W 38-6
9/10 at Auburn L 28-0
9/17 at Tulane W 21-14
9/24 Georgia L 23-10
10/1 LSU L 27-7
10/8 at Florida L 35-9
10/22 Houston  L 28-16
10/29 at Kentucky L 13-7 
11/5 Alabama L 17-0
11/19 at Arkansas L 44-10
11/26 Ole Miss W 35-14

It can't be any worse.

There's no way possible a D-I offense can average 276 yards and fewer than 14 points per game two years in a row. It just can't. The offensive line is sure to be better after struggling through injuries and inexperience last year, and the receiving corps should be much stronger with Omarr Conner's full-time switch from quarterback to receiver and the addition of receiver Tony Burks. Fine, so the running back situation is a bit dicey with the loss of Jerious Norwood and quarterback Michael Henig has to prove he can complete a pass on a regular basis, but there's hope for all the lumps taken last year to pay off.

So now the question becomes whether or not there will be any heat on Croom if things don't start off well. An opening day SEC win over South Carolina would do wonders to give the experienced, but young team confidence going into an even tougher home date against Auburn ten days later. That's two huge home games a program in its third year under a head coach has to win, or at least battle well, if things truly are headed in the right direction. 

In reality for Croom, MSU has to flirt with a winning season and get to a bowl game. There's no excuse to shoot for anything less with its schedule and with all the returning experience, so for the first time since around 2000, there should be expectations around Starkville.

The Schedule: As long as the Bulldogs win the ones they're supposed to, six wins should be within range with games against Tulane, at UAB, Jacksonville State and Kentucky. Can MSU win another Egg Bowl and win at Ole Miss? Can there be an upset at home against South Carolina, Auburn, and/or West Virginia? Expect at least one win that'll shock the SEC, and one loss that'll deflate MSU's balloon.

Best Offensive Player: Junior TE Eric Butler. Tight end might be MSU's strongest position led by the 250-pound Butler, who would shine if he had a consistent quarterback to get him the ball. He's great at getting in the end zone and needs to be used more as a safety valve to keep the chains moving.

Best Defensive Player: Senior LB Quinton Culberson. The former defensive back turned into a fantastic linebacker last year using his speed to be a playmaking machine in the middle. He'll be the leader of an experienced defense that should be tremendous all season long.

Key player to a successful season: Sophomore QB Michael Henig. With Omarr Conner moving to receiver full-time. there's no experience at quarterback outside of Henig, who struggled mightily when thrown to the wolves in his freshman year. He'll have to battle with two redshirt freshmen to keep the gig, but the coaching staff appears to be ready to sink or swim with him.

The season will be a success if ... MSU wins six games. The defense is too good and there are too many improvements on offense to expect another losing season. The Bulldogs won't battle for the SEC West title, but they should be the league's jump-up team like Vanderbilt was last season, except with a better record.

Key game: August 31st vs. South Carolina. The Bulldogs can't expect to beat Auburn meaning an 0-2 start is likely if they can't beat Steve Spurrier's squad. A win in the opener gives hope right away for a winning season and would be one of the program's biggest wins since 2000.

2005 Fun Stats: 
- Pass completion percentage: Opponents 61.4% - Mississippi State 48.3%
- First quarter scoring: Opponents 57 - Mississippi State 19
- Punt return average: Opponents 12.1 yards - Mississippi State 6.4 yards

The Last Time Mississippi State…
…played in a bowl game…2000 (Independence Bowl vs. Texas A&M)
…missed a bowl game…2005
…pitched a shutout…1999 (South Carolina)
…was shutout…2005 (Alabama)
…scored 50 points…2002 (Jacksonville State)
…went undefeated…1940
…won a conference title…1941 (SEC)
…had a 3,000-yard passer…Never
…had a 1,000-yard rusher…2005 (Jerious Norwood)
…had a 1,000-yard receiver…1978 (Mardye McDole)
…had a first-round draft choice…1996 (DB  Walt Harris and WR Eric Moulds)

Related Stories
Mississippi State Preview 2006 - Offense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Aug 8, 2006
Mississippi State Preview 2006 F. Analysis
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Aug 8, 2006
Mississippi State Preview 2006 - Depth Chart
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Aug 8, 2006

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