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Thursday, May 5, 2011
Schedule analysis: Mississippi State

By Edward Aschoff

Nonconference opponents (with 2010 records)

Sept 1: at Memphis (1-11)
Sept 24: Louisiana Tech (5-7)
Oct. 8: at UAB (4-8)
Nov. 5: Tennessee-Martin (6-5)

SEC home games

Sept. 15: LSU
Oct. 15: South Carolina
Nov. 12: Alabama
Nov. 26: Ole Miss

SEC road games

Sept. 10: at Auburn
Oct. 1: at Georgia
Oct. 29: at Kentucky
Nov. 19: at Arkansas (in Little Rock, Ark.)

Gut-check time: The Bulldogs want to be taken seriously in the SEC West, and that opportunity comes with a Week 2 home game against LSU. Defeating one of the conference front-runners at the beginning of the season will certainly send a message to the rest of the league.

Trap game: The Oct. 8 game at UAB is sandwiched between a trip to Athens, Ga., and a home game with South Carolina. Fatigue could be a factor and the Bulldogs don’t want to get caught looking ahead to the Gamecocks. Last season, Mississippi State beat the Blazers by just five points in Starkville.

Snoozer: The Tennessee-Martin game may come before Alabama visits Starkville, but expect the Bulldogs to have their way with the Skyhawks.

Telltale stretch: November won’t be too kind to the Bulldogs. Alabama comes to town before Mississippi State heads to Little Rock to play Arkansas. Depending on how the first part of the season goes, these two games could be crucial in determining who ends up in Atlanta from the West. Rivalry tempers will then flare in the season finale against Ole Miss.

Final analysis: The Bulldogs have the advantage of hosting LSU, South Carolina and Alabama this fall. Each one will be a challenge for Mississippi State, but having that home crowd behind them will be a major luxury. This team has the talent to compete with the big boys of the West, but does it have the endurance to keep up for an entire season? A trip to Georgia should be interesting, since Mississippi State handled the Bulldogs from Athens a year ago. Mississippi State plays just six home games, but the nonconference road schedule shouldn’t be too bad for the Bulldogs. And, of course, Ole Miss will be looking for revenge in the Egg Bowl.