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2012 Summer Football Opponent Preview: Jackson State

With nothing sports wise (I don't count MLB necessarily, since they play like 15,213,643 games) between us and football season but the long and wearisome summer months, we decided that we should take a look at each 2012 game in MSU's football season, starting of course with the opening game against Jackson State.

Quick Facts: Jackson State

  • Location: Jackson, Mississippi
  • Founded: 1877
  • Enrollment: 8,700
  • Facility: Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium
  • Capacity: 60,492
  • Nickname: Tigers
  • Conference: Southwestern Athletic (SWAC)
  • 2011 Record: 9-2
  • 2011 Conf. Record/Finish: 7-2/ 1st in Eastern Division
  • Head Coach: Rick Comegy
  • Alma Mater, Year: Millersville University, 1976
  • Record at JSU: 41-26
  • Career Record: 149-77
  • 2012 Tentative Roster

2011 Opponent Season in Review

2011 was a banner year for the Jackson State Tigers, as they finished 9-2 (7-2 SWAC) on the season, which was capped off by a 51-7 demolishing of rival Alcorn State in the annual Capitol City Classic. Casey Therriault had an outstanding season as the QB for JSU, amassing 3,791 yds passing with 21 TDs and a 60% completion rate.

The Tigers were just 10 points total away from a perfect season in 2011, but fell to Alabama State and Grambling State along the way. With recording 9 wins in 2011 the Tigers also continued improving their record under Rick Comegy, up from 8-3 in 2010 and a far cry from the 3-7 season in 2009. Comegy & Co. will have a tough time continuing their upward trending record in 2012, as Mississippi State, Alabama State and Grambling State all dot the schedule in a year in which Rick must replace his ultra talented Quarterback.

Who to watch for (Offense)

Gone is former Tiger QB Casey Therriault, who lit up JSU opponents to the tune of 345 yds/game in 2011. The job of trying to replace him will fall most likely on the shoulders of Sr. QB Dedric McDonald of Morton, Mississippi. McDonald was the primary signal caller for the Tigers in the spring game*, and finished with a decent afternoon, posting 7-17 for 118 yds, 3 TD's to just 1 INT. Despite his current lead in the race to land the starting spot, McDonald is not the only candidate to see the field this fall at QB for the Tigers, as Tevin Chapman and Mark Thigpen are also in the tight race to draw the starting nod.

The backfield for the Tigers is less of a question mark in 2012 as JSU returns both of its top rushers from the 2011 season. Jr. Tommy Gooden (616 yds, 3 TD's in 2011) and Sr. B.J. Lee (372 yds, 2 TD's in 2011) return to give the Tigers a strong presence running the football, even if they are a more pass oriented team.

At WR, Jackson State must fill the shoes of departed Senior's Marcell Wilder and Renty Rollins, who combined for 1314 yds and 11 TDs in 2011. The Tigers do return Sr. Rico Richardson, who caught 11 TDs in 2011 and earlier this year was named to the College Football Performance Awards watch list for Wide Receivers.

With the Tigers being an air-it-out style offense that loves to throw the ball around, I would look for QB Dedric McDonald and WR Rico Richardson to try to find each other early and often on September 1st.

Who to watch for (Defense)

JSU DE Joseph LeBeau earlier this year was named to the College Football Performance Awards list for Defensive Linemen. LeBeau, a Sr. DE from New Orleans, had an OUTSTANDING Junior campaign in 2011, totaling 75 tackles, 22.5 tackles for loss, 16 (!) sacks, 7 QB hurries, and 3 forced fumbles. basically, he's their version of Fletcher Cox at an end position. Granted those statistics were compiled against SWAC competition, but still, damn.

Jr. LB and team leader in tackles in 2011 Todd Wilcher also returns this fall, and Todd is again expected to be a big part of the potential success that the defense has.

Game Prediction

The last time these two teams met was in the first game of the Dan Mullen era in 2009. State won that game easily, 45-7, with a brand new offense, coach and fan mentality; trying to forget the days of Croom that came before. This time around State is a much more polished team, with the majority of players having been in the Mullen spread-option system for several seasons and more roster depth to boast of than there was at the beginning of 2009.

No matter how improved Jackson State may or may not be, this should be an easy beginning to the season for Mississippi State. I would expect something along the lines of 2009's 45-7 game, with State pulling back the horses early in the second half. I would expect coach Mullen to use this game mostly to test out his slightly tweaked offensive scheme, which is sure to feature more passing with Tyler Russell taking over at the signal caller position full-time now for Chris Relf.

Plenty of scoring, a damn good halftime show (from Jackson State, that is). This should be a fun opening season game, with the Bulldogs most likely headed to a 1-0 start with Auburn coming to town the next weekend.

Bonus Material: What, did you REALLY think I would do a Jackson State preview without footage of the band?

Halftime Spectacles: Jackson State Marching Band (via CBS)

*As is the case with most newspaper-related blogs, the comments on that link are a MUST READ (FIRE EVERYONE CONSPIRACY CONSPIRACY)

Thanks to Travis Downey's blog at the Clarion Ledger for being the best source of information on the Tigers