Now that we have multiple authors here on the site, we are going to be trying a few different things this year. One of those is a roundtable discussion of sorts. We did a short roundtable yesterday with our Texas A & M discussion between Tyler and OurStateBlog. When we can, we will get all 4 of us involved in the discussion, but that may not always be possible.
So to kick us off, here are everyone's thoughts on the 2011 Mississippi State Football season, as well as some predictions. Here are my comments on the season.
The Bruce Dickinson: Last season was a special season for me. It was the first time in almost 10 years that I attended just about every home game. It was great to get back to campus often, catch up with old friends, and cheer on the Maroon and White. The fact that we won most of our games made it all that much better. We are coming into the 2011 season with high hopes and expectations that we will do as well as last year, or better. Our offense returns a majority of our starters. It is hard to replace a playmaker like Anthony Dixon, especially when he was the centerpiece of the offense, but we saw towards the end of the year that Vick Ballard and LaDarius Perkins are a dependable tandem capable of producing. Throw in a superb all-around athlete like Chad Bumphis as well as a crop of wide receivers and you have a recipe for success moving the ball.
Look for Chris Relf to improve on his stellar performances against Ole Miss and Michigan at the end of the 2010 season. He will be without 1st round NFL draft pick Derek Sherrod at left tackle, but the tandem of James Carmon and Blaine Clausell will work out well over there.
On the defensive side of the ball, we return a good many players with experience all over the place, except at linebacker. We also lost one of our defensive coordinators, Manny Diaz, to Texas. Defensive coordinator Chris Wilson, however, is more than ready to step up and give this unit his own identity.
Our season has always provided us with big tests early on in the form of Auburn and LSU, usually back to back. Auburn is a road game to the Plains that I think we can win. They are not the same team they were last year and will certainly be beatable. LSU has owned us. I can admit that. But hey are having issues of their own and will probably come into Starkville without a starter or two. This may be our best chance since Dan Mullen's first season to walk away with a win over the Bayou Bengals. If we can get out of our first 5 games with only 1 loss, the season will be much easier for us.
Season Prediction: 9-3 (5-3 SEC) Losses to LSU, Alabama and Arkansas.
Continue after the jump for more prognostications.
Tyler Nelson: Here we are...Mississippi State is on the eve of its biggest season in 10 years. And unlike last time, we won't roll over. I expect Mississippi State to improve in all facets, (though the kicking situation is concerning), thanks to one of the best coaching staffs in the Southeastern Conference. Chris Relf will continue his maturation as a passer, which will be assisted by a deep pool of receiving options. Vick Ballard won't put up the monster stats he did last season due to splitting more time with LaDarius Perkins, but the senior will be a steady, dependable force in the run game. The offensive line will have a decent showing, but James Carmon, who converted from defensive tackle, will falter at inopportune times thanks to his limited skill set.
Even with the departure of Manny Diaz, coordinator Chris Wilson will continue the attacking style which caught many opponents off guard last year. The linebackers will be fine as defensive tackles Fletcher Cox and Josh Boyd will free up the group against downfield blockers. Three games into the season, Brandon Maye will crack the starting line up and stay there. Look for redshirt freshman Matthew Wells to develop into a promising talent by the end of the year. Though one of the better groups in the SEC, the defensive backs will be on their heels more often than not because the lack of a pass rush. The lack of talent at the end position will hurt tremendously against even serviceable passers (Georgia's Aaron Murray and Arkansas' Tyler Wilson should have very little trouble moving the ball versus the Bulldogs).
Mississippi State will be better. We'll be able to see it on the field. But since everyone else is better too, our record won't show improvement.
Season Prediction: Given the down right nastiness of the schedule, Mississippi State will go 8-4 overall and 4-4 in conference (losses to LSU, Georgia, Alabama and Arkansas). With Dan Mullen patrolling the sidelines, I'm confident we will never be unprepared going into a game. At this time, our problem is we just lack the overall depth to compete with the stronger programs. Still, I'll gladly take 8-4 as our program stabilizes and begins to reach for higher goals. Go State!
OurStateBlog: You know I've had optimism in previous seasons. As a fan of a program, you have to have at least SOME optimism, or why else would you be a fan of that school? As a state fan, this year feels different. For me, it has been so long since I've been this confident in our football team. I'm flat giddy about this year. Even with the daunting schedule we have before us this season, I'm excited because we finally have a solid QB, solid at the RB position, and a defense that gets after the football (OLD GUY SAYING). I think my excitement for this season also stems from the excitement around me. There is pride in our program again. Pride in our fanbase. It feels good to not be cocky, but be confident in what our football team can achieve on the field. Simply put: whether the ball is in Ralph's hands or Russells, Ballards or Perkins, I trust our players and I trust that this could be a great season for us. It won't be easy: Auburn, LSU, Sakerlina, Bama, Arky and more on the schedule. But with some key games at home and senior leadership on the field, this could be a great year for us.
Season Prediction: I think we go 9-3 (5-3) this year, surprise LSU, take a tough, close home loss to Bama at home, and beat TSUN like a drum to end the regular season. I think the Auburn game is close, Georgia I think we finally get a solid road W there, Sakerlina will be a great game, fun and I think a big win for us. Don't overlook Kentucky on the road, they always play us tough. I think we squeak one out there
Memphis - W
Auburn - L
LSU - W
LA Tech - W
UGA - W
UAB - W
Sakerlina - W
Kentucky - W
UT-Martin - W
Bama - L
Arkansas - L
TSUN - W
Dawgfan246: The season is here and now the nation will finally find out if Mississippi State is for real or not. I don't know about everyone else, but I'm as nervous as a pig in a bacon factory. On one hand it's exciting to know that State is finally getting the attention we as fans have wanted for ten years. However, that attention now brings added pressure. The Bulldogs won't be able to fly under the radar and pull off a big shocker like they've been able to do in years past. For the optimists out there, this season provides a decent opportunity to finally make that trip to Atlanta that Coach Mullen has been teasing us with since he took the job two years ago. It won't be easy, but if there is any hope for it to happen it will depend mostly on two main factors. The first is the offensive line. At 6 foot 7 and 305 pounds, James Carmon certainly looks the part of a player than can fill the big shoes left by Derek Sherrod. However, his inexperience at the position will almost certainly produce mistakes and how the Bulldog offense overcomes those mistakes in big games will be key to success. The other factor that concerns me is Chris Wilson. Will he be able to keep the aggressive 'kill the quarterback' defensive style going this year?
I think that we're going to know everything we need to know about the offensive line and Chris Wilson by the time the dust settles after the LSU game on September 15th. Be cautiously optimistic Bulldog fans, this could be the most memorable season ever for us...but will it be memorable in a good way or bad???
Season Prediction: My gut tells me Mississippi State will go 9-3 this year and 5-3 in the SEC (losses to Georgia, Alabama, and Arkansas). Yes, you read that right...I think State FINALLY gets over the hump and beats LSU. The Tigers got all the breaks last year; that trend seems to have changed for them in 2011 thus far.
So there you have it. Take it for what it is worth. What is your prediction for our 2011 season? Let us know in the comments!