Tennessee comes to Starkville on Saturday for an 8:00 kick. They will be the toughest test for the Bulldogs so far in 2012.
UT is 3-2 so far this season, 0-2 in the SEC. Their best win was in the opener over N.C. State - a team that just beat #3 Florida State. Their two losses were to Florida and at Georgia. The Gators are now ranked #4 and Georgia #14 - UT was able to hang with both of those teams for at least a half, down 14-10 vs. Florida and 30-30 at UGA. They were able to stay with UGA but UF ended up pulling away in the 2nd half.
The biggest thing Tennessee has is a passing game. They are 9th in the country and 1st in the SEC with 329 yards per game. Tyler Bray will without a doubt be the best quarterback MSU has played. He has 1,582 yards passing, 14 TD and 6 INT. Their dual threat at WR and MSU's dual threat at CB will be the matchup of the week. WRs Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson both average 13.8 YPC.
The O-lines between Tennessee and Mississippi State seem to have produced the same. UT has a ton of experience on the line and MSU doesn't, but they are both tied for 1st in the SEC with 3 sacks allowed. The rushing attacks are virtually the same as well: 177.4 for the Vols, 179 for the Dawgs. UT has allowed 27 tackles for loss, MSU has allowed 23.
Chances are Tennessee's offense has already seen what MSU can bring at them, but MSU's defense has yet to see what Tennessee will bring at them.
The Volunteers weak spot is defense. They brought in an entirely new defensive coaching staff and switched to the 3-4 in the offseason. Things haven't fared so well this year, but they are coming off an bye week, and we have seen that the 3-4 takes some time before it becomes effective.
The rush defense ranks 83rd (12th in SEC) and the pass defense ranks 72nd (12th in SEC). They are 12th in the SEC in scoring D with 29.6 PPG and 13th in total D 425.8 YPG.
They do have 9 INT this year, tied with MSU and Alabama at the top of the SEC. DB Byron Moore is tied with Darius Slay to the SEC lead in interceptions with 4.
UT had some serious tackling issues at Georgia two weeks ago. MSU should be able to run and throw against this defense and hopefully sustain some long drives, thereby keeping Bray and Co. on the sidelines.
Their best player is linebacker A.J. Johnson, so be on the lookout for where he is.
UT has already missed four extra points this year. They are hitting a lowly 84%.
This is going to be a really tough game for State. Tennessee has proven they are a good team...but by the same token so has Mississippi State. The good news is the game is in Starkville, and I hope that gives us the edge. But I really don't know what to expect. Will it be a high-flying shootout? Will the O.C.'s play more conservative and methodically drive the ball down the field? I just don't know, but I'm looking forward to it.