Mississippi State opened the Dan Mullen era in 2009 with a 45-7 defeat of Jackson State.
Four years later, the Bulldogs are looking to ultimately win their third consecutive bowl game for the first time in school history. Yet, for some reason, the Bulldogs are once again flying under the radar.
But Jackson State has improved, as well. In fact, the Tigers finished last season with nine wins and only two losses. They will have to replace quarterback Casey Therriault, who threw for 3,791 yards and 27 touchdowns last season.
The Tigers do have an experienced defense with nine senior starters. However, they do not play in the SEC, whereas the Bulldogs do and should be in everyone’s top-25 rankings.
The offense will look much different this season. QB Chris Relf has departed but Tyler Russell is now the signal-caller. At At 6'4", 220 pounds, Russell may be the guy that Mullen has been looking for.
The position to keep your eye on is running back. Mississippi State is replacing one of my all-time favorite players, Vick Ballard, with LaDarius Perkins. At 5'10" and 190 pounds, Perkins is not the bruiser that Ballard was. However, if RB Nick Griffin is able to evolve, he and Perkins could lighten the blow of Ballard's departure.
On defense it should be a breakout year for Josh Boyd.
The 6'3" and 300-pound defensive linemen landed on my preseason All-SEC second team. Last season Boyd had 51 tackles and four sacks. Those numbers will improve drastically this season. Boyd will be the centerpiece of Mississippi State's defensive line and his defensive teammates will build off of his individual prowess.
While the Bulldogs will not show all of their cards on Saturday, they must fire on all cylinders so as to ready themselves for the Auburn game the following week. If Mississippi State beats Auburn, a 7-0 start is not out of the question.
Mullen will have his team fired up to play and the scoreboard will reflect it. The most important thing for the Bulldogs is to jump on the Jackson State fast and put the reserves in soon after to avoid injury.
Mississippi State wins 52-13.