Mississippi State has started the season 4-0.
The Mississippi State football team has surprised its four opponents this year, but not in the same way as before.
The Bulldogs have started the season 4-0 for the first time since 1999—and have a chance to go 7-0 before the schedule really gets tough.
With wins over Jackson State, Auburn, Troy and South Alabama, some will point to the Bulldogs weak schedule. However, there's something different about this year's team.
Here's a look at three ways the Bulldogs have surprised opponents this year.
The Bulldogs have scored 61 second-quarter points.
In three of their four games this year, the Bulldogs have put up at least 13 points in the second quarter.
While the first quarter hasn't been too kind so far (24 points), the Bulldogs have been able to do damage in the second with 61 total points. In return, the defense has only allowed nine points in the second quarter.
Last year where the Bulldogs only score 71 points the entire year in the second quarter. Opponents also scored 74 points in the second quarter against them. That's not exactly the way to go into the locker room.
As we've seen throughout college football, teams that can gain any kind of momentum heading into halftime, have an advantage in the second half. That's exactly what the Bulldogs have earned each game.
The Bulldogs have nine interceptions this year.
The Bulldogs are also surprising many teams with their ability to go get the ball on defense.
Last year, Mississippi State had 12 total interceptions. This year, the Bulldogs already have nine. Leading the team with four picks is Darius Slay, including one for a touchdown.
Fumble recoveries tell the same story. The Bulldogs had eight all of last year and are already up to six this year. Chris Hughes leads the team with two fumble recoveries.
They're going after the ball more, exploiting their opponent's mistakes. In the SEC, that's huge, especially when most teams have more highly-recruited players than you do.
Tyler Russell has been getting a majority of the snaps this year.
The 2011 season saw no consistency at quarterback for the Bulldogs.
Chris Relf was the starter, but most fans remember seeing him on the sideline against LSU as Tyler Russell finished the game.
This year, Russell is the starter and has gotten almost all of the snaps.
While quarterback controversy can fuel some teams, for others it hurts them—such as LSU in the national title game last year. Mississippi State was in the same boat as LSU last year.
The Bulldogs don't have to worry about it this year as Relf is gone and Russell is firmly planted in as the starter. And he's impressed in the four games this year.
Russell has completed 55.7 percent of his passes for 822 yards and eight touchdowns, which equals his total from last year.
While there is no comparing Russell to the likes of Aaron Murray, Tyler Bray or A.J. McCarron, Russell is still a good quarterback who can succeed in the SEC.
All he needed was a chance, and he's getting a lot of them this year.