Yesterday, Bleacher Report's lead writer for the SEC, Barrett Sallee, listed a possible trap game for each SEC team. For Mississippi State, he chose the matchup against Southern Miss on September 5th.
I think all Mississippi State fans would agree that this is an idiotic choice.
Go ahead and choose the team that has won a combined four games over the last three years. Choose the team that hasn't chosen a quarterback in a current QB battle. Choose the team that averaged 19 points per game last year. Choose the team that lost to Mississippi State 49-0 last year.
I know there is a better choice for a possible trap game. After looking at the schedule, I found three. I listed them here.
1. Louisiana Tech
Out of the three non-conference opponents State plays this year, Louisiana Tech had the best 2014 campaign. The Bulldogs went 9-5 last year with a C-USA West division title and a 35-18 win over Illinois in the Heart of Dallas Bowl. Well, there are 13 returning starters from that team.
Although losing their starting quarterback Cody Sokol, they bring in Jeff Driskel from Florida. He struggled under a poor offensive system while in Gainesville, but being a five star recruit out of high school, he has the talent to shine in Skip Holtz's system.
Receivers Trent Taylor, Carlos Henderson, and Paul Turner return, all of which were the top three receivers in receiving yards and touchdown catches in 2014.
The Bulldogs return senior Kenneth Dixon at running back, who ran for 1,299 yards and 22 touchdowns last season, and also three offensive linemen.
The secondary will be Louisiana Tech's strength on defense. Xavier Woods, Adairius Barnes, and Kentrell Brice return. Woods was the team leader in interceptions last year (6), Barnes was the team leader in passes defended (14), and Brice was the team leader in tackles (86). In addition, they return senior Bryson Abraham at corner, who started many games in 2014.
Going back to 2011, Louisiana Tech gave Mississippi State all it could handle in a 26-20 overtime State victory. Also, Manny Diaz returns to Mississippi State as defensive coordinator after spending the 2014 season with Louisiana Tech at the same position, so I'm sure the Tech defense would love to come to Starkville and show out for their old coach.
After a 2014 season in which they improved significantly and racking up two straight top 40 recruiting classes, it looks as if winning is in Kentucky's immediate future.
Offensively, the Wildcats return junior quarterback Patrick Towles. Last year, Towles had a solid year, throwing 14 touchdowns and 9 interceptions.
Around him is a stable of young, yet talented, receivers. They return junior Ryan Timmons, who had 45 receptions for 536 yards and two touchdowns last season.
They return four offensive linemen, which is huge for the Kentucky offense.
Although losing Bud Dupree and Za'Darius Smith, Kentucky returns two junior college transfers plus four star linebacker Jason Hatcher as parts of the front seven.
The Wildcats return senior safety A.J. Stamps, the team leader in interceptions last year, and a trio of experienced backs.
In addition, the Kentucky game has always been a scare for Mississippi State. There hasn't been a game with a larger score differential than 14 points in Dan Mullen's tenure in Starkville.
This may come as a surprise to some. After finishing 3-9 last year, Troy brings in Neal Brown as head coach. Brown was the former offensive coordinator for Texas Tech and Kentucky.
Quarterback Brandon Silvers returns for the Trojans. Last year, he set the NCAA record for pass completion by a freshman with a 70.5 pass completion percentage. With that being said, he had a bumpy year, but Neal Brown could help him become more consistent, especially after developing Patrick Towles to a solid season last year while at Kentucky.
The Trojans return two running backs and three receivers. The offensive line is the main question mark for Troy on offense.
The biggest issue for the Trojans is their defense. It's basically a complete rebuild, so new defensive coordinator Vic Koenning will have some work to do.
Going back to Barrett Sallee's article, this isn't the first time he has said some pretty stupid things about Mississippi State. Before the 2013 Egg Bowl, Sallee wrote a piece proclaiming that Mullen's job should be on the line. Here is a passage from that article:
In the SEC West, "the next step" is contending for the SEC West title. Since the start of the 2007 season, the SEC West champ has been in legitimate BCS National Championship contention late into November. Is Mississippi State ready to make that kind of leap?
Not with Mullen.
Well, State finished 2nd in the West and held the lead for nine weeks. We were a legitimate national championship contender late into November.
Speaking of last season, Sallee picked the 2014 Mississippi State team to finish 7-5 and have an appearance in the Birmingham Bowl. I could be wrong, but that is far off from 10-2 and an Orange Bowl appearance.
I guess we can only wait and see how Barrett Sallee's 6-6 prediction for Mississippi State works out this season. We can only wait and see.