2008 CFN Mississippi State Preview
Mississippi State FS Derek Pegues
Mississippi State FS Derek Pegues
Posted May 2, 2008

CollegeFootballNews.com 2008 Preview - Mississippi State Bulldogs

Mississippi State Bulldogs

Preview 2008

By Pete Fiutak

- 2008 CFN Mississippi State Preview | 2008 Mississippi State Offense
- 2008 Mississippi State Defense | 2008 Mississippi State Depth Chart
- 2007 CFN Mississippi State Preview | 2006 CFN Mississippi State Preview 

Did Mississippi State turn a corner, or was 2007's 8-5 season, complete with a scintillating (zzzzzzzzzzz) 10-3 Liberty Bowl win over UCF the plateau?

Head coach: Sylvester Croom
5th year: 17-30
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 20, Def. 24, ST 3
Lettermen Lost: 19
Ten Best Bulldog Players
1. FS/KR Derek Pegues, Sr.
2. RB Anthony Dixon, Jr.
3. LB Jamar Chaney, Sr.
4. LB Dominic Douglas, Sr.
5. OG Anthony Strauder, Sr.
6. DT Kyle Love, Jr.
7. DT Jessie Bowman, Sr.
8. RB Robert Elliott, RFr.
9. SS Keith Fitzhugh, Sr.
10. CB Marcus Washington, Jr.

2008 Schedule
CFN Prediction: 6-6
2008 Record: 0-0

Aug. 30 at Louisiana Tech
Sept. 6 SE Louisiana
Sept. 13 Auburn
Sept. 20 at Georgia Tech
Sept. 27 at LSU


Oct. 11 Vanderbilt
Oct. 18 at Tennessee
Oct. 25 Middle Tennessee
Nov. 1 Kentucky


Nov. 15 at Alabama
Nov. 22 Arkansas
Nov. 28 at Ole Miss

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

Considering the program hadn't had a winning record in six years and hadn't won more than three games in a season since 2000, there's reason for Bulldog fans to get fired up. With a major-league pain-in-the-butt defense, and an offense that did just enough to not screw up, MSU was able to win, but not it needs far more to get to another level and become a real, live challenger.

The defense is there. Loaded with returning veterans, and a few great, underappreciated stars in Derek Pegues and Jamar Chaney, this is a very aggressive, very good defense that will have its occasional issues with the better offenses, but if you have a mediocre offense, you will be shut down.

Oh yeah, the offense. How MSU won eight games and a bowl with the nation's 113th best offense is still a miracle, but there should be some signs of life with a tremendous stable of running backs working behind a veteran line. This won't be Texas Tech when it comes to moving the ball, but the offense won't be a total and complete liability.

The biggest overall question will be how the Bulldogs handle the expectations. This is no longer the SEC West's doormat. This is a good enough team to step up and slug some decent teams in the mouth and come up with an upset or three as they screw up someone's season. But MSU wants to be more than just a spoiler.

If there's going to be a sleeper, and a deep, deep one, to come out of the West, this would be the years. Alabama is still at least a year away from hitting its stride under Nick Saban, Ole Miss and Arkansas are retooling with new coaches, LSU is rebuilding, and Auburn is coming up with a new offense. MSU has to take advantage, and if the offense is better and the defense improves against the better teams, this could be the big year MSU has been dreaming of for a long, long time.

What to watch for on offense: Is Wesley Carroll going to be any better? Thrown to the wolves as a freshman, he threw for 421 yards and four touchdown in the loss to Arkansas, but he also threw four interceptions and finished with seven picks on the year. Closing out by completing eight of 18 passes for 39 yards with an interception in the win over UCF, which didn't exactly inspire confidence, but he'll need to be a more efficient, more explosive passer if MSU is going to make any real noise.

What to watch for on defense: The linebackers. The line will be strong thanks to a great pair of tackles, Kyle Love and Jessie Bowman, and the linebackers will clean up everything that gets by. Seniors Jamar Chaney and Dominic Douglas combined for 167 stops, while sophomore K.J. Wright is a 6-3, 215-pound speedster on the strongside who might lead the team in tackles. This should be the team's strength, if it's not the running back corps.

The team will be far better if … it can generate more of a pass rush. Getting into the backfield isn't a problem, the Bulldog D finished first in the SEC in tackles for loss, but it was last in the league in sacks, coming up with just 19. It's not like MSU is facing a murderer's row of passing quarterbacks, in fact, it's possible that Tennessee's Jonathan Crompton will be the best one it faces, but if there could be more pressure on passing downs, the D will be even more fantastic.

The Schedule: There are three killer road dates, at Georgia Tech, at LSU, and at Tennessee, all before the end of October, but overall the schedule isn't that bad getting Vanderbilt and Kentucky from the East and a snoozer of a non-conference schedule, outside of the date with the Yellow Jackets, playing at Louisiana Tech, SE Louisiana and Middle Tennessee. To improve on last season's breakthrough campaign, there has to be a home win over either Auburn or Arkansas, and there has to be another Egg Bowl win at Ole Miss. An upset at Alabama would certainly help the cause, but after last year's upset win, that could be a beartrap.

Best Offensive Player: Junior RB Anthony Dixon. To say Dixon was the Bulldog offense is an understatement. All the 6-1, 240-pounder did was run for 1,066 yards and 14 touchdowns, and caught two touchdown passes, despite being the total focus of every defensive gameplan.

Best Defensive Player: Senior FS Derek Pegues. Is he an NFL safety? The 5-10, 196-pounder has the speed and quickness, he's a top punt returner, and he's a fantastic tackler and ball-hawker, but he's not a national name. He should be. He's the star of the tremendous defense and the quarterback of the secondary. Job one of every quarterback will be to know where No. 3 is.

Key player to a successful season: Sophomore QB Wesley Carroll. All he needs to be is efficient. He won't have to throw for 300 yards per game, and he won't have to carry the offense, but if he keeps the chains moving, doesn't turn the ball over, and comes up with a deep pass here and there, he'll get the job done.

The season will be a success if ... MSU wins ten games. Yes, the first 10-win season since 1999 is possible with a not-that-bad schedule and a veteran team good enough to be just a wee bit better. There are only two almost certain losses, at LSU and at Tennessee, but everything else is in play. A nine-win regular season, and a bowl win, would be a special season.

Key game: Sept. 13 vs. Auburn. In one of the shocking moments of the early 2007 SEC season, MSU beat Auburn 19-14 in Jordan-Hare. If the Bulldogs can pull off another win over the Tigers in the SEC opener, it'll set the tone for the rest of the year, and it could be a must-win with road trips to Georgia Tech and LSU to follow.

2007 Fun Stats: 
- Fourth down conversions: MSU 6 of 15 (40%) – Opponents 2 of 15 (13%)
- Second quarter scoring: Opponents 94 – MSU 64
- Red zone scores: MSU 30 of 35 (86%) – Opponents 31 of 45 (69%)