Note: This is part 1 of a 12-part series. Each day, we will take a look at an opponent for the upcoming 2010 football season.
Mississippi State opens the 2010 campaign with a matchup against the Memphis Tigers. State leads the series against Memphis 31-11. They last met in 2003 in Starkville with the Bulldogs winning 35-27. Mississippi State has a 10 game win streak over the tigers and is 4-0 over the last 10 years.
Memphis is under the direction of 1st year coach Larry Porter after former head coach Tommy West was fired following a 2009 season that saw Memphis go 2-10. Prior to becoming head coach, Porter, a Memphis graduate, was running backs coach at LSU.
The Tiger offense was pretty stagnant last year, averaging just under 22 points a game. They had serious trouble putting together any sort of passing game and will basically be starting from scratch this year with either sophomore QB Cannon Smith or Tyler Bass, also a sophomore. Bass threw for six touchdowns last year as a backup.
The anemic passing game this season is punctuated by a very inexperienced group of receivers. None of the returning players had more than 20 yards to their credit in the 2009 season. Combine that with a new offensive system being incorporated and you will see an offense relying heavily on the running game to put anything together.
The one shining spot on this Tiger offense is the o-line, returning five upperclassmen on one of the best conference USA offensive lines of last season. While RB Curtis Steele is gone, along with his 1200+ yard 2009 season, the Tigers are hoping that former Wisconsin tailback Lance Smith can fill the void.
The only thing worse than the Memphis offense in 2009 was it's defense, giving up 35 points per game, and ended the year with the 2nd worst pass defense in C-USA. They only return 5 starters from last years squad. The shining spots will be the D-line and linebacker corps, with senior linebacker Winston Bowens moving to defensive end to strengthen the pass rush.
As An Opponent
I like Memphis as our home opener this year. With the departure of Anthony Dixon (which you will hear a lot about this season), the offense will be looking to stretch it out a bit and a weak secondary in the Tiger defense will be just what the doctor ordered. I think the early line on the game from Vegas give State a solid 20 points or more.
I see the Bulldogs coming away with an easy victory and possibly getting the chance to work out some kinks and rest some of the starters to help prepare for the SEC home opener against Auburn, which will be only 5 days after this game.