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Midseason review: Mississippi State

10/10/2011

MISSISSIPPI STATE BULLDOGS

Record: 3-3 (0-3 SEC)

The Bulldogs opened the season with a 59-14 dismantling of Memphis, furthering the belief by many that this would be Dan Mullen’s best team yet in Starkville, not to mention his most explosive offense. It simply hasn’t turned out that way, as the Bulldogs have been hit hard with injuries in the offensive line and sort of puttered through the first half of the season. They’re still looking for their first SEC win and haven’t scored an offensive touchdown in their past two league games. The 21-3 road win over UAB got them back to .500 overall, but the only way to salvage this season is to rack up some key SEC wins the rest of the way, starting with South Carolina at home on Saturday. There simply hasn’t been any consistency on offense, at least in SEC play. The receivers have been a disappointment, and senior quarterback Chris Relf hasn’t thrown the ball with much confidence and has made very little happen down the field. Defenses have picked up on that and are playing the Bulldogs accordingly. Sophomore quarterback Tyler Russell played the second half against UAB, throwing three touchdown passes and jump-starting the Bulldogs after they trailed 3-0 at the half. There could be a quarterback controversy brewing in Starkville.

Offensive MVP: RB Vick Ballard. His start to the season was electrifying. He had 301 rushing yards and four touchdowns after the first two games. Since then, the yards have been tough to come by. Nonetheless, Ballard has been the Bulldogs’ top offensive performer and ranks fifth in the SEC in rushing with 531 yards. He’s also averaging 6.2 yards per carry.

Defensive MVP: CB Johnthan Banks. After starting his career as a safety, Banks has developed into one of the top ball-hawking cornerbacks in the league. He’s tied for the SEC lead with four interceptions and leads the league with 11 passes defended. Banks, a junior, now has 11 career interceptions and is making a run at Walt Harris’ school record of 16 interceptions.