31 August 2011
Tomorrow's the season opener so I figured it's time for me to make a call on how I think the season's going to go.¬† I'm looking forward to the 2011 Bulldogs.¬† I think they will be better all-around than they were last year.¬† Some key pieces have to be replaced but overall I think we'll be looking at the best State team since the 1999 team that went 10-2 and finished #12 in the nation.¬† I think this team will be just as good if not better.¬†
State will have the best Bulldog QB since Sleepy.¬† They will have one of the most well-rounded receiving corps in program history.¬† They will have arguably the best defensive secondary in program history.¬† And they will have the best RB 1-2 punch since Davis-Bouie.¬† We will see one of the deepest State teams in recent memory, and probably the fastest team any of us has ever seen.¬† So, I think¬†it will be something special.¬†
But how will that translate in wins and losses?¬† There are still some questions that will be answered in the first two games.¬† Will the LBs step up and fill the shoes left by White and Wright?¬† Will the D-line be good enough to make up for the holes at LB?¬† Is Brandon Maye the real deal?¬† And how good will the O-line be without Brignone and Sheppard?¬† Plus, the expectations are high this year and that puts pressure on a fairly young team.¬† How will they respond as the favorite rather than the underdog?¬† Here's how I see it:
Definite Wins:¬† Memphis, La Tech, UAB, Tenn-Martin, TSUN.¬†¬† Let's face it, Mullen has yet to lose a game that he was supposed to win.¬† UAB gave us a scare last year so we will be ready this year.¬† Plus, those billboards in Birmingham warrant a proper response.¬† And Mullen owns TSUN.¬† In Starkville, the Rebs won't have a chance.
Likely Win:¬† Kentucky.¬† I say likely because it's in Lexington and that's always a tough place to play.¬†¬†
Likely Losses:¬† Arkansas and Georgia.¬† I just don't feel good about playing in Athens, and Georgia will remember how we pushed them around last year.¬† I don't think we pull it out against the Bulldogs.¬† And Arkansas, in my opinion, will win the West.¬† They will shock a lot of people with an explosive offense (despite losing Knile Davis), and some awesome play in the trenches.¬† In Fayetteville, the Hogs will be too much for us.¬†
That's¬†6-2 with four games left to discuss.¬†¬†Let's look at them:
At Auburn:¬† On paper State should be the better team but the intangibles will be huge here.¬† There's the Cam Newton issue.¬† There are a lot of ¬†unknowns about¬†Auburn, the fact that they are replacing a lot of key personnel, so it's hard to know how good or bad they may be.¬† And¬†let's not¬†forget that Auburn is the defending national champion and they will remain so until someone beats them.¬† They won't give that up easily.¬† It's on the plains and the Tigers will be ready.¬† I give the edge to State but it will be a war.
LSU:¬† The¬†Tigers are dealing with some off-the-field¬†issues.¬† It's¬†the home opener in Starkville¬†on Thursday night, on ESPN.¬† DWS will be rocking and rowdy.¬† LSU will¬†probably be the favorite but they won't be taking the Dogs lightly.¬† It's LSU, and we seem to be cursed against the Tigers.¬† This year I see it finally happening.¬† We take the Tigers, and the goalposts come down.
South Carolina:¬† Bad feeling.¬† Bad, bad feeling.¬† Yes, it's home, but this will be our¬†7th consecutive game without a bye week, four of those¬†will have been on the road.¬† The team will be tired and banged up.¬† SC will also have played 7 straight, but only¬†one road game prior to Starkville.¬† Honestly, this is a toss up for me but I'm leaning against the Dogs.¬† I just don't feel good about it.
Bama:¬†¬†They have more talent and¬†are just plain better than us.¬† I think it's close.¬† I think it's physical.¬† I think the Tide leaves Starkville relieved to escape with a win, but¬†they will escape with a win.¬†
So that's it.¬† Even though State will be better than last year, better than any Bulldog team in over a decade, I think 8-4 is what we're gonna get.¬† The schedule is tougher than last year with the more winnable games on the road and the brutes at home.¬† And the SEC competition just gets tougher every year.¬†¬† Yes, there isn't a game on the schedule that State can't win and I think there is a legitimate chance at 10 or 11 regular season wins without batting an eye.¬† Yes, we will be in the West race.¬† But I just don't think we are at that point yet.¬† In any other conference State is top 2.¬† Not in this one.
Look out for Tennessee-Martin as a trap game.¬† No one is talking about it but State will be set up here.¬† They will be returning from a tough win at Kentucky and looking forward to a war with Bama.¬† It's homecoming, which means distractions.¬† Hopefully, Mullen has that one circled.¬†
I expect Saulsberry, Carmon¬†and Charles Mitchell to get drafted (and Relf of course).¬† Maye will gel into a defensive leader and will make some big plays for us.¬† Relf shatters the single season passing record and becomes the first QB I can remember to Three-Peat Ole Miss, and he takes home the Conerly.¬† There will probably be a 1000 yard receiver, and it may not even be Bumphis.¬† Robert Eliot will surprise with some significant contributions to the offense, and Cam Lawrence emerges as a big-time defensive player.¬† Ferlando Bohanna and Damien Robinson will be two guys we don't say much about now but will talk a lot about at the end of the season.¬† And the secondary sets a new season record for INTs.¬† Mullen will be rumored in several coaching vacancies but I don't think he's going anywhere.¬†
State WILL win a game they're not supposed to, either against Auburn, LSU, SC, or Bama.¬† And they will probably be back in a New Years Day bowl, my guess is the Cotton Bowl in a rematch with future SEC rival Texas A&M.