Live Free Picks
Home Of 500 Handicappers
Place: Davis Wade Stadium, Starkville, Mississippi
Tennessee brings its high-powered passing offense on the road to Mississippi State on Saturday night, looking to extend its wining streak against the No. 18 Bulldogs to seven games.
Mississippi State will counter Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray with cornerbacks Johnthan Banks and Darius Slay, who have combined for 37 interceptions in their careers, returning eight for touchdowns, and safeties Nickoe Whitley and Corey Broomfield. Bray has 14 touchdown passes this season and a conference-leading 1,582 passing yards.
Tennessee Volunteers (3-2, 0-2 SEC): The Volunteers appear to have a soft spot in their defense. They allowed 336 rushing yards to Florida in a 37-20 loss Sept. 15, and 274 in a 51-44 loss to Georgia two weeks later.
Finding a method to slow Mississippi State running back LaDarius Perkins, who ranks second in the conference in rushing at 99.8 yards a game, will be key to staying with the Bulldogs.
Tennessee has allowed five touchdown runs of more than 50 yards in the last three games. Head coach Derek Dooley will coach from the press box after undergoing hip surgery this week.
Mississippi State Bulldogs (5-0, 2-0 SEC): The Bulldogs have scored at least 25 points in their first five games, something they’ve never accomplished in the program’s 113-year history.
Tyler Russell has provided nice balance for Mississippi State at the quarterback position, throwing 10 touchdown passes with just one interception. If the Bulldogs are to start 6-0 for the first time since 1999, Russell will need to continue his efficient play and keep the Tennessee defense guessing.
1. Mississippi State has forced 15 turnovers this season, fourth-most in the country, and ranks 11th nationally in points against (13.4).
2. The Volunteers have lost 13 straight games against ranked opponents and 19 of their last 20.
3. Tennessee wide receiver Justin Hunter has caught 33 passes for 456 yards and four touchdowns this season, and senior running back Rajion Neal is coming off the only two 100-yard rushing performances of his Tennessee career.