It seems like just yesterday we were in the dog days of summer, wishing for football to hurry up and get here. Nowe we're already halfway through the 2011 College Football season. For some teams the year has been a pleasant surprise, for others, a horrendous nightmare. For the Mississippi State Bulldogs though, you have to feel like sure it's been a dissapointment, but there is still alot of room for success in the second half of the season.
That being said, For Whom the Cowbell Tolls has taken a look at the Bulldogs 3-3 start to the season and has handed out some grades for both the offense and defense, along with MVP's and predictions the rest of the way out.
FWtCT's Midseason Report
What grade would you give this team overall at the halfway mark?
C.G. Mosley: I would give them a C+. This team has performed well below my expectations. I know there have been injuries on the offensive line that has forced the coaching staff to shuffle players around, but it's still not an excuse for some of the dreadful performances we've seen thus far.
thecristilmethod: I would give this unit a C-. 3-3 is a good bit lower than I think anyone anticipated for this team at the halfway point, but some of that can be attributed to injuries. I think with the upcoming schedule that State has room to improve and room to finish very strong.
The Bruce Dickinson: I will go with a C. They are an average team right now. The offensive line injuries exposed just how shallow we are at that position, and also took away our ability to effectively run our speed option game. Defenses know that Relf is not accurate beyond 10-15 yards passing, so they are stuffing us at the line, giving us the short passes and taking advantage of the floaters he tosses down field. The receivers cannot stay open because they are having to slow down to see what kind of pass they are getting from Relf, and our O-line is so torn up, that we can't keep running lanes open very long.The defense is doing what it can. We are still playing very soft in the secondary, scared to give up the big play and essentially staying in prevent mode all the time. Cox and Boyd seem to be fairly ineffective. Euls seems to be a bright spot at End and hopefully can develop nicely.
What grade would you give the offense at the halfway point?
C.G. Mosley: D+. The offense, I believe, is where most of the Bulldog's woes originate. I hate to say this, but it seems to me that Chris Relf's season ended at the one yard line in Auburn. He hasn't seemed the same since that game and as much as I like the guy and appreciate what he did last year, I think it's time to let Tyler Russell start his first game this Saturday against South Carolina. No one can overlook what happened when Russell took over in the second half of the UAB game.
thecristilmethod: That high ranking is mostly based on the fact that I attribute a good deal of the frustration in this years unit with the injuries that have been sustained up front. One of the keys to State's success last year was the ability to remain healthy, and that just hasn't been the case. QB Chris Relf has struggled a good deal this season, some due to OL injury and some due to what I think is his willingness to call his number maybe a little bit too much this year. I think this unit has tons of room to improve, and may have begun to do so Saturday vs. UAB behind Sophomore Tyler Russell.The Bruce Dickinson: D. The offense has really struggled since Carmon went down at Auburn. Since then, we seem to be constantly shuffling the offensive line around trying to get better protection and i think the whole unit is just out of sync. Clausell is not effective at all in the tackle slot (evident by his first play from scrimmage). Like I said in my first answer, our offensive line issues have taken away our ability to run our speed option game, and forces Relf to attempt passes he is not capable of.I think Tyler Russell did a great job in the second half against UAB, but that was UAB. I think he should start Saturday against South Carolina. He earned it. And you could also see the offense open back up when UAB had to respect Russell's arm down field.
What grade would you have for the defense at halfway point?
C.G. Mosley: I'll give the defense a solid B+. There have been moments this year where I've really missed Manny Diaz, but it seems the further we go into the season, the better our defense is getting. The Bulldogs are getting turnovers and not allowing opponents to score a ton of points. What else can you ask for?
thecristilmethod: Have to give this unit a B+. Although they've given up some big plays, this defense, which lost some key starters from last years squad, has kept us in every game (minus the Georgia 1st Half), and that's about all I can ask out of them. I would look for this unit to improve even more if the offense improves as the defenders won't have to be out on the field as long as they have been so far this year.The Bruce Dickinson: B. They are doing the best they can. Because of our offensive issues, they are on the field longer than they need to be, and that may be why we are playing soft in the secondary, to make up for that.
Who is your first half MVP?
C.G. Mosley: I'm sticking with the work horse of our offense, and that of course is Vick Ballard. Even Coach Dan Mullen understands his importance evidenced by a moment in the game against Auburn where he turned to Ballard and pretty much begged him to win the game for them. So far this season he's got 430 yards and 5 TD's. If Tyler Russell becomes the starter and gets things going with the Bulldog passing game, the opportunities for the running game are going to open up and Vick Ballard will be there to cash in.
thecristilmethod: I'm gonna go off the grid here a bit and say Derek DePasquale. Outside of missing a chipshot field goal against UAB, Derek has done a solid job for this team in a year when solidarity has not been a common trait. plus I like his shoes alot.The Bruce Dickinson: Ballard. He is our work horse this year and always finds a way through the line. He also has good hands and brings a short passing threat. If he rolls out of a block, the defense has to respect him and assume he is just as much part of the play as the receivers down field.
Chris Relf or Tyler Russell - who should be our QB the rest of the way out?
C.G. Mosley: See question 2...it's Tyler's time now.
thecristilmethod: As much as I hate to bail on Relf, I think Tyler Russell is the QB for 2011 and not 2012. I think if Russell can lead this team like he did Saturday vs. UAB, then he needs to be the guy going forward. Still alot to be played for this year and although I do feel for Relf being a Senior, I think we have to do what's best for this team, which right now seems to be #17.The Bruce Dickinson: Tyler Russell earned a start against South Carolina for getting us out of Birmingham with a win. We don't need to go back to a 2 QB system like we did last year because that just won't cut it in the SEC. We need to start Tyler and see what he can do with a full game plan around him.
How do you see the second half of the season shaking out for State?
C.G. Mosley:South Carolina - W
UT Martin W
South Carolina: W, I think we can rattle the young QB Kentucky: W, they are awful this year
UT Martin: W, hopefully
Alabama: L, my goodness I hope noone dies in that game
Arkansas: W, call me crazy but I think we win in Little Rock
TSUN: W, they suck something fierce this year too
The Bruce Dickinson:
South Carolina - L. Lattimore will be too much for us.
Kentucky - W (Joker is a joke and they are just waiting for basketball season at this point)
UT Martin - W (but stranger things have happened)
Alabama - L (the NFL is coming to town)
Arkansas - L (we have never played well on the road in Arkansas)
TSUN. - W (Nutt is on the hot seat and the only question is who is in worse shape: the team or the fans)