Fiu, Cirminiello, Mitchell on TV - Campus Insiders | Buy College Football Tickets

2007 Mississippi State Bulldogs
Posted Dec 31, 2007

2007 Mississippi State Bulldogs Season, Game Recaps, Scores and Reviews

2007 Mississippi State Bulldogs

Recap: After three straight three-win seasons, Sylvester Croom’s blueprint for a revival in Starkville finally began to deliver tangible signs of progress.  The Bulldogs, saddled with quarterback problems all season, clawed their way to eight wins, capped by stirring victories over Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl and UCF in the Liberty Bowl, the school’s first postseason game in seven years.  Wins over Auburn, Kentucky, and Alabama were proof that Mississippi State’s breakthrough, eight-win season was not just the product of a cushy schedule.            

Offensive Player of the Year: RB Anthony Dixon

Defensive Player of the Year: DE Titus Brown

Biggest Surprise: The Bulldogs’ first national statement that they’d be a nuisance all year came in a Week 3 upset of Auburn at Jordan-Hare.  Despite losing starting QB Michael Henig to a broken hand, and allowing the Tigers to drive deep into its territory in the final minutes, Mississippi State hung on for a momentum-building 19-14 upset.    

Biggest Disappointment: The Bulldogs didn’t have much to complain about in a season that far exceeded anyone’s expectations.  If there was a low point, it came on Nov. 17, a 45-31 loss to Arkansas.  Although Mississippi State was still bowl eligible, it needed this game to ensure an invitation, but got smoked by five Hog touchdown passes.   

Looking Ahead: After becoming one of the stories of 2007 in the SEC, Mississippi State needs to build on its succees, beginning with this February’s recruiting cycle.  The silver lining in the Bulldogs’ year-long quarterback crisis was that true freshman Wesley Carroll was forced to survive a baptism under fire.  Almost an entire season of experience has hastened his development, good news for the league’s worst offense.  


- 2007 MSU Preview
- 2006 MSU Season

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction: 3-9
2007 Record:

Aug. 30 LSU L 45-0
Sept. 8
at Tulane W 38-17
Sept. 15 at Auburn W 19-14
Sept. 22
Gardner-Webb W 31-14
Sept. 29 at So Carolina L 38-21
Oct. 6
UAB W 30-13
Oct. 13 Tennessee L 33-21
Oct. 20 at West Virginia L 38-13
Oct. 27 at Kentucky W 31-14
Nov. 10 Alabama W 17-12
Nov. 17 at Arkansas L 45-31
Nov. 24 Ole Miss W 17-14
Liberty Bowl
Dec. 29 UCF W 10-3

Dec. 29
2007 Liberty Bowl
Mississippi State 10 ... UCF 3

Mississippi State came up with its fourth turnover of the day on a Keith Fitzhugh interception in the fourth quarter, and then the offense went on its best drive of the game going 59 yards in ten plays culminating in a one-yard Anthony Dixon touchdown run. The only other scoring came in the second quarter on a 45-yard Michael Torres field goal giving UCF a 3-0 lead, but MSU answered with a 22-yard Adam Carlson field goal off a Knight turnover. UCF RB Kevin Smith didn't break Barry Sanders' single-season rushing record coming up 62 yards short, but he ran for 119 yards. The rest of the Knight attack gained a mere 88 finishing with only 219 yards, but MSU didn't do much better gaining 199. 
Offensive Player of the Game: UCF RB Kevin Smith ran 35 times for 119 yards, and led the Knights with three catches for 12 yards
Defensive Player of the Game:
Mississippi State CB Derek Pegues made four tackles, a tackle for loss and picked off two passes
Stat Leaders: Mississippi State - Passing: Wesley Carroll, 8-18, 39 yds, 1 INT
Rushing: Anthony Dixon, 24-86, 1 TD. Receiving: Christian Ducre, 3-10
UCF - Passing: Kyle Israel, 10-24, 88 yds, 3 INT
Kevin Smith, 35-119. Receiving: Kevin Smith, 3-12
Thoughts & Notes ... Yes, the defenses played great, but the 2007 Liberty Bowl will be remembered for the completely inept offenses. Check that; the completely inept passing games. UCF RB Kevin Smith and MSU RB Antony Dixon were fine, but the two quarterbacks, UCF's Kyle Israel and MSU's Wesley Carroll, were miserable. How bad were the passing attacks? The two quarterbacks combined to complete 18 of 44 passes for 127 yards (with MSU getting just 39) and four interceptions. Credit the defenses for generating plenty of pressure, but the quarterbacks, at this point in the year, needed to be better. ... The storyline around Smith will be about how he didn't set the single-season rushing record, but his 119 yards on the ground should be viewed as the glass being half full. MSU threw everyone at him and he still cranked out 100 yards. ... The offensive numbers: 23 combined first downs. Six of 30 on third downs. 3.1 yards per play for UCF, 3.3 yards per play for MSU.

Nov. 23
Mississippi State 17 ... Ole Miss 14
Adam Carlson connected on a 48-yard field goal with 12 seconds to play to cap a wild comeback in the MSU win. Ole Miss got out to a 14-0 lead with a 14-yard BenJarvus Green-Ellis run and a 13-yard Shay Hodge catch, but then the roof caved in. With only four first downs up until midway through the fourth quarter, the Bulldog defense came through with a fourth and one stop and the offense capitalized going 46 yards in six plays with Anthony Dixon running for a four-yard score. With just 2:38 to play, Derek Pegues tied it with a 75-yard punt return, and MSU won it by going 34 yards in six plays. The two teams combined to convert just eight of 29 third down conversion attempts.
Player of the game: Mississippi State DB Derek Pegues made three tackles, a tackle for loss and broke up three passes, returned four punts for 75 yards and a touchdown, and returned two kickoffs for 23 yards
Stat Leaders: Mississippi State - Passing: Wesley Carroll, 13-28, 130 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Jamayel Smith, 1-27. Receiving: Anthony Dixon
Ole Miss - Passing: Brent Schaeffer, 10-30, 115 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
BenJarvus Green-Ellis, 29-117, 1 TD. Receiving: Shay Hodge, 2-209, 1 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... It wasn't pretty in any way, but MSU found a way to overcome a lousy offensive performance to beat Ole Miss and be assured of a bowl bid. With a seven-win season, this might be the turning point for a program that's been so bad for so long, but consistency is still an issue. Wesley Carroll threw for 421 yards against Arkansas, and then couldn't throw a lick for extended stretches against the Rebels. The running game continues to struggle, and the defense didn't generate nearly enough pressure into the backfield. Whatever. Seven wins are seven wins. Longsuffering MSU fans aren't going to complain.

Nov. 17
Arkansas 45 ... Mississippi State 31
MSU scored first on a four-yard catch from Jamayel Smith, and then Arkansas took over through the air with Casey Dick throwing three straight touchdown passes hitting Farod Jackson from 30 yards out, Robert Johnson from 35 yards away, and Marcus Monk from 19 yards out. Darren McFadden, who was bottled up for most of the game, took a Dick pass 57 yards for a score, and connected with Johnson for a 24-yard touchdown. MSU kept bombing away with Wesley Carroll throwing for 421 yards and four touchdowns, including an 80-yard play to Smith midway through the fourth quarter, but there were also four interceptions including a pick six from Antwain Robinson to put the game away. MSU ended up turning it over five times, while Arkansas didn't give the ball away.
Player of the game: Arkansas QB Casey Dick completed 14 of 17 passes for 199 yards and four touchdowns
Stat Leaders: Mississippi State - Passing: Wesley Carroll, 29-51, 421 yds, 4 TD, 4 INT
Rushing: Anthony Dixon, 17-40. Receiving: Jamayel Smith, 10-208, 2 TD
Arkansas - Passing: Casey Dick, 14-17, 199 yds, 4 TD
Darren McFadden, 28-88. Receiving: Darren McFadden, 4-50, 1 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... On the plus side out of the loss to the Hogs, Wesley Carroll and the passing game was as impressive as they've been all season, and it's good to know MSU can air it out, but there were too many turnovers and the defense didn't come up with any early stops to let the Bulldog offense try out the running game. Not that it was going anywhere, with Anthony Dixon averaging 2.4 yards per carry, but after the first quarter it was all about bombing away. Against Ole Miss, it'll be vital to take the early lead. The Rebels aren't able to throw their way back into games.

Nov. 10
Mississippi State 17 ... Alabama 12
Up 9-3, Alabama was driving for an apparent late first half score, but Anthony Johnson picked off a John Parker Wilson pass in the end zone and took it 100 yards for a touchdown to change the game. Anthony Dixon ran for a three-yard Bulldog touchdown early in the second half, and MSU had all the points it would need to pull off the upset and become bowl eligible. Alabama only managed four Leigh Tiffin field goals, hitting from 39, 51, 29 and 50 yards out. Alabama only gained 274 yards of total offense, but MSU only came up with 215.
Player of the game: Mississippi State DB Antony Johnson made two tackles, broke up a pass, and and picked off a pass for a 100-yard score.
Stat Leaders: Alabama - Passing: John Parker Wilson, 16-34, 121 yards, 2 INT
Rushing: Terry Grant, 19-75. Receiving: D.J. Hall, 5-46
Mississippi State - Passing: Wesley Carroll, 9-21, 100 yds, 1 INT
Anthony Dixon, 26-84, 1 TD. Receiving:
Tony Burks, 2-29
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... The MSU offense went nowhere against Alabama, Wesley Carroll struggled mightily to get the passing game moving, and Anthony Dixon, for the most part, was stuffed. It didn't matter. The defense came up with a gem, and the offense came up with a nice scoring drive when it was handed great field position in the third quarter, and now it's bowl time. Getting a win over Arkansas and/or Ole Miss would secure a bowl bid, but as is, the SEC is going to make sure the Bulldogs get a 13th game. This might not be a pretty team, but it can hit like a ton of bricks.

Oct. 27
Mississippi State 31 ... Kentucky 14
Mississippi State took advantage of six Kentucky turnovers with two leading to ten third quarter points in the stunning upset. Kentucky's high-powered offense was outgained 352 yards to 319, with one touchdown coming on a 37-yard Steve Johnson catch on fourth down, and the other coming in the first quarter on an 18-yard Johnson catch. MSU got an 11-yard Jason Husband touchdown catch on the game's first drive. Anthony Dixon ran for two one-yard scores, and Christian Ducre ran for a 34-yard score.
Player of the game: Mississippi State RB Christian Ducre ran 19 times for 119 yards and a touchdown, and led the team with five catches for 30 yards
Stat Leaders: Kentucky - Passing: Andre Woodson, 24-42, 230 yds, 2 TD, 3 INT
Rushing: Derrick Locke, 11-46. Receiving:
Jacob Tamme, 6-46
Mississippi State - Passing: Wesley Carroll, 17-28, 152 yds, 2 TD
Christian Ducre, 19-119, 1 TD. Receiving:
Christian Ducre, 5-30
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Talk about being able to bounce back. MSU was awful in the loss to West Virginia, and then it came up with a defensive gem to shock Kentucky and get within one more win of bowl eligibility. The defense forced turnovers, six of them, while the offense didn't give them away. That turned out to be the difference, thanks to the pressure from the UK front that made life tough for Andre Woodson. The combination of Christian Ducre and Anthony Dixon running the ball should be enough to take the heat off Wesley Carroll against Alabama and/or Arkansas.

Oct. 20
West Virginia 38 ... Mississippi State 13
West Virginia rolled for 262 rushing yards, betting 64 of them right off the bat with a Pat White touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage. The Mountaineers pounded away for a 28-0 first quarter lead helped by a 12-yard Owen Schmitt run, a ten-yard Darius Reynaud dash, and a 26-yard Steve Slaton run. Down 31-0, MSU finally got on the board with a one-yard Anthony Dixon run. Reynaud caught a 13-yard touchdown pass from Jarrett Brown to complete the blowout.
Player of the game: West Virginia QB Pat White completed eight of 12 passes for 61 yards and two touchdowns with an interception and ran five times for 89 yards and a score
Stat Leaders: West Virginia - Passing: Pat White, 8-12, 61 yds, 2 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Steve Slaton, 23-127, 1 TD. Receiving: Steve Slaton, 4-36
Mississippi State - Passing: Wesley Carroll, 18-35, 169 yds
Anthony Dixon, 20-61, 1 TD. Receiving: Tony Burks, 6-41

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... MSU struggled defensively against Tennessee last week, and this week wasn't even close to slowing down the West Virginia rushing attack. The D line didn't necessarily get shoved around, but the Mountaineers were able to open up the holes with the quickness up front. Offensively, Wesley Carroll wasn't able to get things moving well enough to keep up the pace, while the running game didn't provide any help averaging 1.4 yards per carry.

Oct. 13
Tennessee 33 ... Mississippi State 21
Tennessee broke open a close game in the final 20 minutes on three Daniel Lincoln field goals, but it was Lucas Taylor, who had a huge day with 186 yards and a 51-yard touchdown, and Arian Foster, who ran for 139 yards and a score, that carried the Vols. MSU made it interesting with a 30-yard Anthony Dixon touchdown run and two Wesley Carroll scoring passes, but the balanced UT offense proved to be too much. The Vols outgained the Bulldogs 470 yards to 338.
Player of the game: Tennessee WR Lucas Taylor caught 11 passes for 186 yards and a touchdown.
Stat Leaders: Tennessee - Passing: Erik Ainge, 22-36, 259 yds, 2 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Arian Foster, 21-139, 1 TD. Receiving: Lucas Taylor, 11-186, 1 TD
Mississippi State - Passing: Wesley Carroll, 18-33, 203 yds, 2 TD
Anthony Dixon, 26-108, 1 TD. Receiving: Tony Burks, 5-79, 1 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... MSU might have lost to Tennessee, but the passing of Wesley Carroll, and the running of Anthony Dixon, gives the team a nice balance. Defensively, the line struggled way too much to generate any pressure on Erik Ainge, and didn't do nearly enough against the run to stop the Vol offensive momentum. With West Virginia and Kentucky up next, the team has to be ready to get into a few shootouts.

Oct. 6
Mississippi State 30 ... UAB 13
MSU scored 21 fourth quarter points on Anthony Dixon runs from ten and 12 yards out, and Anthony Johnson returned a pick 30 yards for a score, to put away UAB late. The Blazers took the lead on a 31-yard Frantrell Forrest touchdown catch, and was up 13-9 going into the fourth on a 29-yard Swayze Waters field goal. UAB outgained the Bulldogs 288 yards to 284, but penalties and tackling problems in the fourth quarter proved to be the difference.
Player of the game: Mississippi State RB Anthony Dixon ran for 152 yards and three touchdowns on 32 carries.
Stat Leaders: UAB - Passing: Sam Hunt, 16-35, 217 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Rashaud Slaughter, 12-43. Receiving: Frantrell Forrest, 7-122, 1 TD
Mississippi State - Passing: Wesley Carroll, 9-12, 93 yds
Anthony Dixon, 32-152, 3 TDs. Receiving: Jamayel Smith, 4-38

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... The offense was hardly a machine against UAB, gaining just 284 yards and getting nothing from the passing game. Wesley Carroll isn't going to bomb away, with the gameplan being Anthony Dixon, Anthony Dixon, Anthony Dixon, and then hoping from key plays from the defense. UAB wasn't going to do much on the Bulldogs, so the O didn't take any chances. Against Tennessee next week, the offense will have to do far, far more.

Sept. 29
South Carolina 38 ... Mississippi State 21
Down 21-17 late in the third quarter, South Carolina turned it on with 21 unanswered points on a 27-yard Kenny McKinley touchdown catch, his second score of the game, and two of Mike Davis' three touchdown runs. MSU hung around on a 28-yard Aubrey Bell touchdown catch and a two-yard Anthony Dixon score, but two late drives stalled, and another was stopped by an interception. The two teams combined to commit 20 penalties for 181 yards.
Player of the game: South Carolina RB Mike Davis ran 18 times for 59 yards and three touchdowns
Stat Leaders: South Carolina - Passing: Chris Smelley, 19-37, 279 yds, 2 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Mike Davis, 18-59, 3 TD. Receiving: Kenny McKinley, 4-107, 2 TD
Mississippi State - Passing: Josh Riddell, 9-21, 101 yds, 1 TD
Anthony Dixon, 22-83, 2 TD. Receiving:
Co-Eric Riley, 3-20
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... MSU's defense feasts off the big play, and didn't get enough of them against South Carolina. There was decent balance against a good Gamecock defense, but Josh Riddell struggled to make the consistent pass, even though he made a few big ones. When he got a chance, Wesley Carroll wasn't bad, but he didn't get anything on the move. MSU's offense has to be all about getting the chains moving, and it only converted three of 13 third down chances.

Sept. 22
Mississippi State 31 ... Gardner-Webb 15
Mississippi State took a 28-0 first half lead on two Anthony Dixon touchdown runs, a 30-yard Tony Burks catch, and a 60-yard interception return for a score from De'Mon Glanton. Gardner-Webb got most of its points in the final 20 minutes, highlighted by a six-yard Phillip Peoples touchdown run. MSU outgained G W 213 yards to 131 on the ground.
Player of the game: Mississippi State RB Anthony Dixon ran 16 times for 86 yards and two touchdowns
Stat Leaders: Mississippi State - Passing: Josh Riddell, 8-11, 124 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Anthony Dixon, 16-86, 2 TD. Receiving: Anthony Dixon, 3-41
Gardner-Webb - Passing: Stan Doolittle, 19-33, 191 yds
David Montgomery, 10-42. Receiving: Dobson Collins, 6-94

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... The offense might not have been anything special against Gardner-Webb, but at least it moved a little bit. In the quest to find a quarterback who can fill in for the banged up Michael Henig, Josh Riddell had a strong performance, outside of an interception, while Wesley Carroll showed good mobility in his limited time. RB Anthony Dixon is the offense, and he needs help. More downfield passing will be needed against South Carolina, but the Bulldogs didn't work much on opening it up this week.

Sept. 15
Mississippi State 19 ... Auburn 14
Mississippi State jumped out to a 13-0 lead on two Adam Carlson field goals and a Derek Pegues interception return for a touchdown, lost the lead late in the first half on a 28-yard Ben Tate run and a one-yard score from Kodi Burns, and got the lead back late in the fourth on a five-yard Christian Ducre touchdown run. The MSU defense held on as the Tigers got down to the Bulldog nine, but couldn't get into the end zone with a fourth down pass falling incomplete. Auburn outgained MSU 323 yards to 213, but turned it over five times.
Player of the game ... Mississippi State DEs Titus Brown and Avery Hannibal only combined for two tackles, but Brown's was a sack, with the two combining for eight quarterback hurries.
Stat Leaders: Auburn - Passing: Kodi Burns, 8-12, 65 yds, 1 INT
Rushing: Bem Tate. 15-91, 1 TD  Receiving: Rod Smith, 4-78
Mississippi State - Passing: Michael Henig, 1-3, 16 yds
Anthony Dixon, 29-103  Receiving:
Aubrey Bell, 1-16
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Offense schmoffense. Who cares that MSU only gained 213 yards against Auburn? Who cares about the total lack of a passing game? Well, MSU will as the year goes on, but for a program in desperate need of big wins, this was one of them. The defense can only hang tough for so long. Eventually, a quarterback has to emerge from the fray after Wesley Carroll, Josh Riddell and Michael Henig combined to complete five of 18 passes for 41 yards. The Gardner-Webb game next week has to be all about airing it out.

Sept. 8
Mississippi State 38 ... Tulane 17
The two teams were tied at halftime as Mississippi State got a 47-yard interception return for a score and an 18-yard Michael Henig scoring grab, and Tulane got a 39-yard Matt Forte touchdown run and an eight-yard scoring pass from Scott Elliott. And then the Bulldog defense took over, shutting down the Green Wave attack, while the offense got two Anthony Dixon touchdown runs and an eight-yard Jeremy Jones scoring grab. MSU outgained Tulane 489 yards to 243.
Player of the game: Mississippi State RB Anthony Dixon ran for 131 yards and two touchdowns on 27 carries.
Stat Leaders: Mississippi State
- Passing: Michael Henig, 20-31, 223 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Anthony Dixon, 27-131, 2 TDs. Receiving: Jamayel Smith, 4-53
- Passing: Scott Elliott, 15-26, 197 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Matt Forte, 14-47, 1 TD. Receiving: Matt Forte, 6-49

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Basically, MSU gave up one big play to Tulane that kept it close early, and then the defense took over, holding the Green Wave to eight first downs and 243 yards of total offense. Anthony Dixon became the workhorse he needs to be to take the pressure off of QB Michael Henig, who didn't have a great game, but it was good enough considering the defense and ground attack were able to control things. To beat Auburn, Henig has to be mistake free, while the defense has to shut down the run. The team might be closer to being competitive in the SEC than it appears.

Aug. 30
LSU 45 ... Mississippi State 0
LSU's defense suffocated MSU allowing a mere 146 yards of offense and ten net rushing yards, and made it a nightmare of a night for QB Michael Henig with six interceptions. Craig Steltz picked off three passes. Despite a slow start, the LSU offense got a one-yard Keiland Williams touchdown run, his second of the first half, as time ran out to all but end the game going into the locker room. Matt Flynn connected with Early Doucet and Charles Scott on 11-yard touchdown passes in the third quarter, and Ryan Perrilloux ran for a three-yard score and threw a 15-yard scoring pass in the fourth.
Player of the game: LSU DB Craig Steltz made 2.5 tackles, one tackle for loss, forced a fumble, and intercepted three passes
Stat Leaders: Mississippi State - Passing: Michael Henig, 11-28, 120 yds, 6 INT
Rushing: Anthony Dixon, 13-29. Receiving: Arnil Stallworth, 3-33
LSU - Passing: Matt Flynn, 12-19, 128 yds, 2 TD
Jacob Hester, 14-68. Receiving: Early Doucet, 9-78, 1 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Many will dump on Michael Henig for his six interceptions against LSU, and yes, he had problems with sailing throws that weren't drilled like they needed to be, but he had to try to press, and he had to try to make things happen. It was obvious early on that the running game wasn't going to work, ten yards isn't going to cut it, and Henig had to press. He didn't get much help from anyone. The defense did what it could, but no one can hold up with so many turnovers.

Aug. 30 - LSU
Offense: There's a little bit of nervousness among LSU fans with a major change underway in the offense under new coordinator Gary Crowton. There'll be more option, more quick timing patterns, and quicker reads on the line. Fortunately, the loss of JaMarcus Russell won't hurt as much as it would for almost any other program with Matt Flynn and Ryan Perrilloux returning to run the attack. The backfield is loaded with options led by star newcomer Keiland Williams working behind a great line with enough returning experience to dominate. The receiving corps won't be as productive without Dwayne Bowe and Craig Davis, but Early Doucet and Brandon LeFall will be a great 1-2 combination.
Defense: The nation's number three defense in each of the last two years might crank things up yet another notch with eight starters returning led by the nation's most impressive line. Tackle Glenn Dorsey and end Tyson Jackson might be top five draft picks next season, while Ali Highsmith leads a fantastic linebacking corps that'll only get better once the star prospect backups get more time. Chevis Jackson and Jonathan Zenon form a top lock-down corner tandem, while Craig Steltz and Curtis Taylor will be more than just fill-ins for safeties LaRon Landry and Jessie Daniels. With all the talent returning, expect more big plays, more turnovers, and more dominance against the average to bad teams.

Sept. 8 – at Tulane
Offense: New head coach Bob Toledo would like to get vertical get the passing game moving, but it's not going to happen at the expense of the ground attack. With a good back in Matt Forte to work with, the Green Wave will try to run the ball to create some semblance of balance, but the offensive line might not be in place to do it. Scott Elliott is the odds-on favorite to win the starting quarterback job in a four-man race, and he has some decent young receivers to work with.
Defense: Tulane hasn't played consistent defense in a few years, and it needs to count on experience, especially up front, to change things around. Eight starters return led by senior tackles Frank Morton and Avery Williams. The secondary needs to be far better after allowing over 250 passing yards a game, but that could be a bit of an issue with two new starting corners being broken in. The new coaching staff will use a variety of formations and schemes to try to get more production, and while the overall defense should be better, there will still be times when it'll get bombed on.

Sept. 15 – at Auburn
Offense: Where are the stars? The Auburn offense is full of above-average talents who need to mesh into a better, more consistent attack than the one that averaged just 24.77 points and 321 yards per game while doing next to nothing against the top teams. Only one starter, massive tackle King Dunlap, returns to the offensive line, while the receiving corps could be a problem is no one becomes a reliable number two receiver alongside Rodgeriqus Smith. On the plus side, the running backs are deep and talented, Brandon Cox appears ready to be a more productive passer, and the tight ends are the best in the league by far.
Defense: The whole will likely be better than the parts. Auburn's defensive front has the potential to be excellent thanks to the return of star end Quentin Groves for his senior year and with the emergence of Sen'Derrick Marks on the inside. Getting into the backfield won't be an issue, and coming up with sacks had better not be with a secondary that'll be shaky despite getting three starters back. The loss of corner David Irons will hurt. The linebacking corps isn't experienced, but it should be better than last year's group as the season goes on.

Sept. 22 – Gardner-Webb

Sept. 29 – at South Carolina
Offense: This should be a balanced attack that'll rely on the running game early on and the steady play of emerging QB Blake Mitchell to be more explosive and consistent than last year. The big concern is a line that was overmatched throughout the spring as it tried to break in three new starters. Getting a push for the nice 1-2 rushing punch of Cory Boyd and Mike Davis is job one, while Mitchell will have to make quick decisions early on until things start to come together. The loss of Sidney Rice won't be a killer if Kenny McKinley handles the number one job like he's expected to and a good number two emerges.
Defense: The defense has plenty of returning experience, depth, young options waiting to step up and shine, and good stars to build around. MLB Jasper Brinkley is one of the best in America, and now his twin brother will move from defensive end to outside linebacker to help out (though he might end up back on the line). The secondary is emerging as a potential force if everyone starters to play consistently. There's speed at corner, depth and experience at safety, and an emerging star in SS Emanuel Cook. The defensive line has to be far better against the run, and it should be with the return of Marque Hall from injury and the emergence of freshman Ladi Ajiboye.

Oct. 6 - UAB
Offense: From the staff and the system to the personnel, the offense will be getting a complete facelift in 2007.  Nothing will look the same which isn’t such a bad thing considering how poorly the unit executed last season.  New coordinator Kim Helton is installing a pro-style attack that sprinkles in some no-huddle and option calls, but realizes he’ll have to tailor the first-year playbook to the talent he inherits.  All eyes in August will be on the continuing quarterback battle between senior Sam Hunt and sophomore Joseph Webb, a potential savior once he gets up to speed.  Whether or not the offense climbs out of the Conference USA cellar will depend heavily on the maturation of a rebuilt line that’s replacing four senior starters. 
Defense: While the back seven of the defense figures to be a strength in 2007, you might not know it unless the defensive line can effectively replace three key starters from last year.  Senior end Brandon Jeffries will be productive, but after him, UAB is feverishly searching for answers to prevent opposing passers from having all day to throw.  Junior college transfer Antonio Forbes is being counted on to deliver right out of the gate at tackle.  The linebackers have a budding star in junior Joe Henderson and senior free safety Will Dunbar is one of just a handful of Blazer defenders with all-league potential.

Oct. 13 – Tennessee
Offense: The return of David Cutcliffe as offensive coordinator made a night-and-day difference in the passing game. Now he needs to get the running game to do more, and there needs to be even more from QB Erik Ainge after a nice bounceback year. The receiving corps loses the top three targets and the line loses the two best players, so it'll be up to the trio of Arian Foster, LaMarcus Coker and Montario Hardesty to carry the running game and the offense. Ainge has to make everyone around him better until new producers at receiver emerge.
Defense: Is there a defense in America that's produced less with so much promise and potential? The Vols have a who's who of top high school prospects that haven't quite panned out, and now that has to change to have any hope of winning the SEC East. Jerod Mayo will move from the outside to the middle and Jonathan Hefney returns at free safety to give the Vols two All-America caliber defenders to build around. Now there needs to be more of a pass rush after coming up with an inexcusable 17 sacks, and the new starting tackles have to quickly emerge. The secondary has to replace three starters, but should be fine in time, while the linebacking corps, if healthy, will be among the SEC's best.

Oct. 20 – at West Virginia
Offense: Unlike most schools that run the spread offense, West Virginia aims to open lanes for its prolific ground game, rarely putting the ball in the air more than 20 times a game.  The Mountaineers want the ball in the hands of its two junior Heisman candidates, quarterback Patrick White and running back Steve Slaton.  Along with receiver Darius Reynaud, they form the fastest offensive trio in America, and are threats for six with even a hint of daylight.  White is an underrated passer that rarely misses his target, but needs more help from a receiving corps that’s suspect after Reynaud.  Few schools rebuild on the offensive line better than West Virginia, but how will the unit react without its long-time quarterback Dan Mozes and long-time coach Rick Trickett?
Defense: Lost in all the yards the Mountaineer offense gained in 2006 was all the yards the defense allowed.  West Virginia allowed 35 or more points three times last fall and was torched through the air repeatedly over the second half of the year.  Worse, this once relentless defense had trouble getting to the quarterback and looked a step slow.  Rich Rodriguez is banking on a few tweaks to the back eight and an influx of faster players as the solutions in the team’s 3-3-5 stack formation.  Led by playmaking senior safety Eric Wicks, the secondary has a glut of really talented athletes that need to gel into a cohesive unit.

Oct. 27 – at Kentucky
Offense: The Wildcat offense exploded last year thanks to the emergence of Andre Woodson as a superstar quarterback. It'll be bombs away once again, as Woodson chose to come back for his senior year and will have all his weapons at his disposal. Keenan Burton finally stayed healthy, and he became one of the SEC's most lethal receivers. Dicky Lyons, tight end Jacob Tamme, and running back Rafael Little are also back, with Little healthy enough again to be one of the SEC's best all-around offensive weapons. The problem is the line, which is mediocre at best, a liability at worst. It could be what keeps the Wildcats from being special.
Defense: Defensive coordinator Mike Archer is gone, and now former secondary coach Steve Brown will take over in an attempt to revive one of the nation's worst defenses. The run defense won't be any good again with little size up front, but the secondary should be better with excellent speed and good young prospects. It'll take awhile to see any improvement overall, but there's enough overall athleticism to expect things to be a bit better.

Nov. 10 - Alabama
Offense: Major Applewhite takes over as offensive coordinator and will play around with several different formations and ideas, while trying to stick with Nick Saban's run-first philosophy. He'll incorporate a little bit of spread and four-wide sets. There's one problem; Bama might not have the backs to run well on a consistent basis. The strength is in the passing game with the great 1-2 receiving tandem of D.J. Hall and Keith Brown working with rising passer John Parker Wilson. The line welcomes back five starters led by soon to be All-Everything tackle Andre Smith.
Defense: Former Florida State defensive coordinator Kevin Steele came in and switched things up to a 3-4 in an attempt to jump-start a woeful pass rush by getting more production from the outside linebackers, led by a hybrid position of defensive lineman and linebacker, manned by Keith Saunders. Wallace Gilberry and Bobby Greenwood look the part of top ends, and now they have to start producing. The biggest problem is tackle, where former backup center Brian Motley, who looked great this spring, has to be an anchor for everything to work right. The back eight should be excellent, led by all-star corner Simeon Castille.

Nov. 17 – at Arkansas
Offense: The Gus Malzahn experience quickly got pushed aside, forgetting about his spread offense to better utilize the devastating running attack. Now it'll be up to new offensive coordinator David Lee, who'll try to run a pro style passing attack, but will spend most of his time figuring out how to get the ball into the hands of the magnificent running duo of Darren McFadden and Felix Jones. The line, despite the loss of three starters, will be fantastic for the running game, but suspect in pass protection. Marcus Monk is an elite receiver, but a number two option has to emerge and Casey Dick has to throw the ball effectively and consistently.
Defense: It'll be a good defense, but there are some big-time talent losses in linemen Jamaal Anderson and Keith Jackson, corner Chris Houston, and linebacker Sam Olajubutu. There's plenty of speed and athleticism to go around in what should be a solid back seven, but everyone has to stay healthy. The line needs tackle depth with Marcus Harrison questionable after tearing his knee this spring. Overall, coordinator Reggie Herring will keep things aggressive with tons of plays in the backfield, along with lots of pressure applied by the defensive backs.

Nov. 24 - Ole Miss
Offense: The offense needed more out of the running game after a woeful 2005, and it got it with BenJarvus Green-Ellis coming up with a 1,000-yard season as the workhorse for the offense. Now the offense has to figure out how to score after averaging 15.7 points per game (up from a whopping 13.45 per game in 2005). The passing game needs a lot of work, and the hope will be for the young receiving corps to step up and become passable. There will be a quarterback battle into the fall with Brent Schaeffer needing to prove he can move the offense, or he'll be unseated be Seth Adams, who's the more efficient passer. The massive line should be better after years of seasoning.
Defense: This should've been the year when everything started to come together for the Rebel defense, but the loss of all three starting linebackers, along with some major uncertainty in the secondary, will make this an inconsistent year, at least early on. The defensive line will be the strength with end Marcus Tillman on the verge of stardom, and the tackle combination of Peria Jerry and Jeremy Garrett to be among the best in the league ... if they stay healthy. The secondary lost some of its top safety prospects to the depleted linebacking corps, and the corners have to be far better. Ole Miss only picked off three passes last year. That can't happen again.



Related Stories
Reed Stringer Reflects Back on the Bowl
 -by  Jan 5, 2008
Post-Bowl Risers: Offense
 -by  Jan 6, 2008
Harbison New DC, Campbell Added to Staff
 -by  Jan 4, 2008

Add Topics to My HotList
Get free email alerts with news about your favorite topics. Click link to add to My HotList.
Football > Mississippi State
[View My HotList]