davis wade stadium
Saturday is the last time the seniors will ever take the field at Davis Wade Stadium. They have a chance to finish out the season as one of the best classes in program history. More importantly, they have a chance to be a part of the first ever college football playoff and compete for a national championship.
To do that, it all starts with this game against Vanderbilt. Not only do the Dogs need to win, but they need to win big. Style points count for a team in Mississippi State's position, and a close win against a team like Vandy could be devastating.
We saw the playoff committee drop TCU out of the top four after struggling to beat a bad Kansas team. Mississippi State currently sits in that #4 spot, and they will end up like TCU if they struggle to beat Vanderbilt.
Even though Mississippi State is coming off of a physical game against Alabama, the chances of Vanderbilt giving them a nail biter is not likely. Vandy currently sits at 3-7 with a 0-6 record in conference play.
The Commodores' three wins are against UMass, Charleston Southern, and Old Dominion. They only beat UMass and Charleston Southern by a combined four points.
If Vanderbilt has anything going for them, it's that they have been more competitive since the start of the season. They went from getting blown out by Ole Miss and Temple by a combined score of 78-10 to playing teams like Missouri and South Carolina close.
That slow start followed by improvement over the season is what you would expect out of a young team like the Commodores have. Their two deep depth chart is absolutely lit up with freshmen and sophomores.
It also doesn't help when you can't settle on a starting quarterback, something it took the Dores a long time to do. After rotating through several players, it looks like they have finally settled on Johnny McCrary. He has thrown nine of the team's 12 touchdown passes on the season. Interestingly enough, McCrary had an offer from Alabama coming out of high school.
It doesn't quite matter who the quarterback is this season for Vanderbilt. They just don't have the weapons around him to put a good offense on the field.
They average less than 300 yards a game, which ranks them dead last in the SEC in total offense. They have only run the ball for 114 yards a game. To make matters even worse, they're also last in turnover margin at -12.
Mississippi State's defense is still third in the league at stopping the run and first at sacking the quarterback, with 33 on the season.
Vandy's defense hasn't struggled quite as much as the offense, but they still haven't been very good. They're giving up 32 points a game and have only gotten to opposing quarterbacks 16 times.
Mississippi State is first in the SEC in total offense and is the only team averaging over 500 yards a game. They're second in scoring with right at 38 points per game.
In other words, all signs point to a blowout. Vanderbilt is out manned at every position on the field, and even if they are able to move the ball on offense, they will struggle to score against the best red zone defense in the SEC.
They also don't have the defensive line to slow down Mississippi State's rushing attack, and they won't be able to create enough pressure to force Dak into mistakes.
I think you'll see Josh Robinson get a lot of carries this game. You may say he needs to be rested for the egg bowl, but I would say it's even more important to let him have a big game and get his confidence back up. Not that he's lacking any confidence, but he hasn't had many opportunities the past two games carrying the football.
The same can be said for Dak as far as confidence, but with him it's all about turnovers. He needs to play mistake free football this week and get back on track before the game with Ole Miss. He's going to get his yards without a doubt, but everyone, including the Heisman voters, will be looking more at his decision making than anything these last two games.
There's always the possibility of a hangover after your first loss of the season, especially when it was a physical game like last week. I think the players know the importance of having an impressive game, and they will come out with a lot of energy. The fans need to do the same.
Win this game and the egg bowl becomes the most important one in the history of the series. This is going to be a very exciting and nerve-racking end to the season. Brace yourselves accordingly.
Numbers to Know
The number of yards Mississippi State put up on the Alabama Crimson Tide last Saturday. Granted, some of that came on a late touchdown drive that didn't matter unless you had money on the game, but regardless, State was able to move the ball fairly well against the Tide, especially in the second half. What ultimately decided the game was turnovers, as MSU faltered multiple times in the redzone, costing them a chance to win.
Opponent third down conversion percentage for teams playing against the Commodores this season. During their win streak to start the season, MSU was really good on third down, and it appears as though you can take advantage of Vanderbilt on critical down situations. It will be interesting to see what Dan dials up against them this week.
MSU's current turnover margin for the season. That was ultimately the killer last Saturday, as MSU threw three interceptions, all with the ball in Alabama territory. The Bulldogs still have a clear shot at getting into the college football playoff, but to do that, they'll need to clean things up quite a bit. Vanderbilt may not kill them, but those types of turnovers next week will certainly make it difficult to win in Oxford.