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Mississippi State Leads the SEC in Three Critical Stats

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MSU has played disciplined football and dominated in the red zone this season.

Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports

There are three areas where Mississippi State has dominated in 2015, good enough in fact to lead the Southeastern Conference statistically.

I'm sure you can name one of them, but the other two may surprise you.

What are they? Let's jump right into it.

Opponent's touchdown conversion in the red zone

I'll start with the obvious one -- the reason MSU went into Auburn and came out with a victory. Say what you want about Manny Diaz's defense giving up yards, but he has put his players in position to make plays when it matters most. Opponents have reached the end zone on just 28.6 percent of trips inside the 20. That will win you a lot of ball games if your offense can have even the slightest bit of success, and speaking of the offense, we'll get to them in a minute.

Diaz is picking up right where he left off. His 2010 MSU defense finished second in this category only behind the Crimson Tide. Here's the thing: State's overall defense -- I'm talking about yards per game allowed -- finished eighth in the conference that year. So far 2015 is playing out exactly like his last stint in Starkville. They will give up some yards, but good luck scoring in the red zone.

Offensive touchdown conversion in the red zone

Dak Prescott and the MSU offense have made the most of their opportunities deep in opponent territory. Just as the defense has tightened up inside the 20, the offense has been just as clutch. MSU has punched it in for six on 80 percent of their drives inside the red zone to lead the SEC. That's a huge surprise given the struggles Dak and the running backs have experienced in the run game. It's encouraging to see these drives ending in touchdowns instead of field goals. That will have to be the case this weekend in College Station to come out on top in a high scoring game.

Penalties

Dan Mullen's team has avoided the mental mistakes, which is surprising given the youth and inexperience on the offensive line. MSU sits atop the conference with only 4.3 penalties per game. Naturally I know what all of you are thinking: the delay of game penalty against LSU may have cost them a win. True, but that's just as much on the head coach as anything, and it's promising to see the team is avoiding costly penalties for the most part. MSU has actually finished top 5 statistically in penalties per game every year under Dan Mullen.