Following Mississippi State's 27-14 win over Kentucky, thoughts immediately shifted to the date ahead with the Tennessee Volunteers. While the Dawgs are 5-0 overall, including a 2-0 record in the SEC, they have yet to be tested by a team with any sort of identity. Auburn has yet to figure out how to move the ball in any way other than sporadically. Kentucky was without their starting quarterback, only have one win, and lost to Western Kentucky. Jackson State, Troy, and South Alabama are teams that did not force the Bulldogs to bring their A game. Despite close games with South Alabama and Troy, bringing their C game was enough to get them past those teams.
Tyler Russell is actually a decent FBS quarterback who threatens to throw for 250 yards while completing 55% of his passes. The running game may not be quite as potent as previous years but is still a major weapon with Ladarius Perkins averaging nearly 7 yards a carry. However, the Bulldogs have yet to show their true colors. Tennessee will provide a much needed measuring stick before entering the meat of their SEC West schedule.Tyler Bray is averaging over 300 passing yards per game, a big test for the highly touted Mississippi State secondary. The Vols' running game is an adequate complement to the high octane passing attack to keep teams honest and relieve blitz pressure. The 2 Tennessee losses were at the hands of Florida and Georgia, both being highly ranked teams in the national championship picture. In each game the Volunteers provided stiff competition despite falling short.
State has yet to play such a well rounded team which could pose problems. If the Dawgs plays as well as they are capable, especially the secondary, they should pull out a win to move to 6-0. That would potentially set up a massively important game against Alabama in which both teams could be undefeated well into the season. A win in that game would put Mississippi State in the driver's seat of the SEC West and talks of a national title would emerge. But if they under perform this Saturday and lose to Tennessee at home, suddenly there is a subtle fear that will crawl over Mississippi State fans as they play a Middle Tennessee team who put it on Georgia Tech 49-28 in an upset earlier this season. Of course Alabama, LSU, Texas A&M, and an emerging Ole Miss squad still linger.
No one knows what this current Mississippi State team is made of. Maybe an outside chance at an SEC(national) championship or a team that falls into the same ol' 8-4 season. No one knows because no one knows what to make of the teams State has played thus far. Tennessee will provide the answers this weekend. Hail State!