davis wade stadium
Mississippi State (3-2) will try to jump back into the win column as they take on the Troy Trojans (1-3) out of the Sun Belt Conference.
For the Bulldogs, the game begins a three-game stretch at home that presents a good opportunity for a 6-2 record going into November.
MSU dropped out of the top 25 after last week's 30-17 loss to Texas A&M -- a game that saw several Bulldogs go down with injuries. Kendrick Market is out for the season after tearing his ACL. Gabe Myles, Rufus Warren, Joe Morrow and Will Redmond are all listed as questionable for this week's game.
The next three games will be used to get young players such as Jamal Peters, Malik Dear, and Elgton Jenkins more experience, especially with so many guys ahead of them down with injuries. While Louisiana Tech and Kentucky will not be cake walks, State should be able to get away with playing a lot of youth against Troy.
The Trojans' only win so far in 2015 came against Charleston, and they lost to NC State and Wisconsin by considerable margins. They played their first conference game last week against South Alabama, falling 24-18.
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Emphasis on balance
Dan Mullen said this week he wants to get back to playing balanced football on offense. Of course, he's referring to fixing the problems in the run game more than anything. MSU has failed to find a consistent running back with Dak Prescott leading the way in rushing with just 217 yards. Against a Troy defense that gives up a robust 218 rushing yards per game, MSU should be able to work out some kinks or at least give one of the running backs a chance to separate themselves.
I have a sneaky suspicion we'll see Aeris Williams get the start. While his fumble in the red zone against A&M was an absolute killer, I think he's proved to be the most explosive back to this point. That's outside of Brandon Holloway, but with his size we all know he'll never be the starter. With nearly half the season gone, now is a good of time as any to find that every-down back. They will all have the opportunity this week to make their case.
Troy's coach familiar with MSU
First year coach Neal Brown is no stranger to MSU. He served as offensive coordinator the past two seasons at Kentucky -- MSU's permanent cross divisional opponent out of the SEC East. MSU got the better of last year's matchup with the Wildcats, 45-31 in Lexington, but that offense gave MSU fits at times.
Brown doesn't have a Patrick Towles or many other offensive weapons to work with any more, but it can't hurt that he's already familiar with MSU's defense. Yeah it was Geoff Collins he was facing, but Diaz's base scheme isn't all that different. He needs to bring pressure with different looks and not sit back in soft coverage. Troy has been average at best throwing the ball, but you know the secondary is the first place Brown will want to attack.
Manny Diaz made it a point this week in practice for his unit to get their hands on the ball and finish plays. The defense has missed out on several potential turnovers this season -- especially on interceptions -- and Diaz is challenging his guys to capitalize on those opportunities.
After forcing 23 turnovers last year, MSU's defense has only forced three through five games this season -- the lowest number in the conference. Five fumbles have hit the ground and not one has been recovered, and I can think of at least three interceptions that should have been caught. Just way too many missed opportunities on that side of the ball, and the next three games are a good opportunity to clean that up.
There's no way this game should be in doubt past the second quarter. This week is all about rotating and getting more experience. One of the young running backs needs to step up and emerge from the pack. I think they will, and I think it will be Aeris Williams. This game won't last very long. I think Mullen is going to run, run, and run some more until he finds his running back. And against a pretty bad Troy defense, State's offensive line should be able to take full control.
MSU- 52 Troy- 10