ladd peebles stadium
Saturday, Mississippi State will take the field against the University of South Alabama Jaguars. The Jaguars will be MSU's first opponent this season outside of Conference USA (They are a member of the Sun Belt conference). But perhaps most importantly, this will be the first road test for the Bulldogs in 2014, and it should be a good one.
2014 marks USA's second year as a Division I-A/FBS program. But this is not your typical second year FBS program. USA has a ton of experience returning from 2013, including Sr. QB Brandon Bridge. USA will start 15 seniors and 4 juniors on Saturday. Only 3 underclassmen are projected to start, excluding the specialists.
Offensively, USA will look similar to MSU. Their base offensive package will be 3 WRs, 1 RB, 1 TE. Brandon Bridge is one of the best QBs in the Sun Belt and a true dual threat. MSU will have to contain him to have success defensively. Fair warning: USA has only played one game so far this season, so the stats I'm about to use are obviously a little skewed. That said, USA is 58th nationally in Rushing Offense. They rushed the ball 50 times last week for 186 yards, 2 TDs, and a 3.72 YPC average. USA threw the ball just 25 times in their first game, completing 15 for 161 yards, and 1 TD. They averaged 6.44 Yards Per Attempt and 10.37 Yards Per Completion. Clearly, USA is a run-first team that wants to pound the football.
Defensively, USA will operate from a base 4-2-5 defense. The Jags only allowed 64 yards rushing in their opener against a very outmatched Kent State team. Their passing D was sharp as well, allowing just 213 yards through the air. The Jaguar D did allow 13 points, however. USA is a bit light up front on D, averaging 268 pounds.
Emotion could play a huge part on Saturday. USA is absolutely ecstatic an SEC opponent is visiting their campus. Fans everywhere are buzzing about a potential upset. Look for a rowdy environment in Mobile on Saturday afternoon. USA should feed off the emotion from their crowd and possibly challenge MSU into the third quarter. USA should be a legit contender for the Sun Belt title this year, so this game won't be a cakewalk. But I would look for MSU's superior talent and depth to eventually take over the game.
Numbers to Know
The number of people who will pack Ladd-Peebles Stadium Saturday afternoon for the game which has officially been declared a sellout, the first in school history. This is a big deal for the Jaguar program and its fans, in case you hadn't noticed, and there's no doubt that MSU will get their best shot -- fans and team alike -- on Saturday.
Third down conversion percentage this season for Mississippi State's opponents, Southern Mississippi and UAB. MSU has surrendered just seven conversions in 34 attempts so far this season, which is good enough for 10th in the country through two weeks of play. The Bulldog defense will need to keep those kind of impressive numbers up AND improve upon its deep passing game defense if it hopes to gain a win on the road this weekend.
The number of sacks allowed in the 2013 season by the Jaguar offensive line. This is an impressive, veteran group that returns nearly in its entirety in 2014, and one that will be a challenge for the rotating MSU defensive front seven. A key for MSU will be starting strong, and that includes a good defensive showing with a formidable pass rush. After giving up some big plays (four pass plays over 60 yards) last Saturday, MSU will need to find a way to create pressure to avoid giving Brandon Bridge all day in the pocket.