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Mississippi State vs South Alabama Game Preview

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The Bulldogs are hosting the Jaguars this week. Here’s what I expect to happen.

NCAA Football: Mississippi State at South Alabama Glenn Andrews-USA TODAY Sports

To start off the season, Mississippi State is hosting the Jaguars of the University of South Alabama. The last time these two teams met was back in the wonderful season that was 2014 when the Bulldogs traveled down to Mobile, Alabama where Dak Prescott and company jumped out to a hot start and went on to win 35-3. The game also brought on wonderful content from our friend, Cristilmethod:

But now the Jaguars are a few years older as a program. They’re looking to prove that they’ve improved since the Bulldogs last trounced them in their home stadium. But how much has South Alabama improved?

Offense:

Like Mississippi State, South Alabama is still trying to find a reliable and consistent quarterback to lead their offense. The Jaguars have last year’s backup Dallas Davis as their starter for this week, but he’s yet to do anything to prove in live game settings that he can be more than a game manager for South Alabama. However, he’s quick and mobile, and his ability to scramble might complicate things for MSU’s defense.

At running back, the Jaguars have a nice stable that features two running backs that might be able to do some damage to the Bulldogs. The two guys that’ll likely see the most time for South Alabama, Xavier Johnson and Tyreis Thomas, combined for over 1,500 yards in 2015 and scored 9 touchdowns. They compliment each other nicely too, as Johnson is more of an outside runner at 5’10” and 180 pounds while Thomas can handle carrying the ball up the middle more as he’s 5’10” and 210 pounds.

The Jaguars also have a few nice receiving options with Josh Magee and Gerald Everett. Magee is a quick, agile slot receiver that snagged over 500 yards and caught 3 touchdowns in 2015. Everett is a solid downfield and redzone threat from the tight end position at 6’4” and 225 pounds. Last season he caught 8 touchdowns and had 575 yards receiving.

And then there’s the fact that the Jaguars are bringing back three offensive line starters, all of which are seniors in Joseph Scelfo, Steven Foster, and Curtis Williams that bring back 50 career starts. South Alabama is also able to add sophomore Noah Fisher, who made two starts a season ago, to the right side of their line to give them a total of 52 career starts.

The Jaguars have some nice pieces on their offense. The key for them is getting Dallas Davis to effectively and efficiently use them. There’s no guarantee that he will though, and this offense is about to face a very rugged defense.

Defense:

The Jaguars bring back a defense that focuses on utilizing their deep pool of experience in the secondary. They’re set to play a 4-2-5 defense that emphasizes their secondary. The starters of Jeremy Reaves, Nigel Lawrence, Quinton Dent, Devon Earl, and Kalen Jackson features 3 seniors, a junior, and a sophomore.

But despite the fact that South Alabama has a solid secondary, their front six isn’t all that rugged. A year ago, offenses were able to run right through them, but adding new defensive coordinator Kane Wommack might change that.

Wommack’s defensive line will feature a smaller, athletic front that could be good at pass rushing and getting beyond larger offensive linemen. The average weight for their starting defensive line is 258.75 pounds. That’s not very big. While there’s potential that it might benefit them in pass rushing situations, there’s a very real chance that they’ll struggle in stopping the run.

As for the Jaguars’ linebackers, it’s not looking all that stellar for them either. Their two starters, Darrell Songy and Roman Buchanan average out to weigh 227.5 pounds. Buchanan was a solid presence on their defense a year ago, but Songy has yet to play a down for the Jaguars defense.

The Jaguars might make it difficult for the Bulldogs to pass at times due to their loaded secondary, but if Mississippi State’s offensive line can move the smaller South Alabama front six, there shouldn’t be much of an issue for State’s offense to generate some yards.

Special Teams:

The Jaguars actually have some turnover in their special teams unit from a year ago. Sophomore Gavin Patterson has earned the starting kicker job and it appears that this will be his first time taking over the kicking duties. At punter, sophomore Corliss Waitman beat out senior Brandon McKee for the spot. South Alabama will use Quinton Lane, Xavier Johnson, Josh Magee, and Raphael Barr to return kicks.

Final prediction:

Mississippi State is clearly the better team here. While the Jaguars have assembled a few nice pieces on offense, they likely won’t be able to score often enough against a defense that features an absolutely terrifying front seven like Mississippi State. This game might be a little closer than we’d like after the first quarter, but expect the Bulldogs to pull away late in the game and for the running game to gain some confidence against a weak rush defense from South Alabama.

Mississippi State wins 38-13

Listen to an audio preview in an episode of For Whom the Podcast Tolls below: