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Place: Davis Wade Stadium, Starkville, Mississippi
With the most challenging part of its schedule ahead, No. 16 Mississippi State understands that one of its best starts in school history will be all for naught if it doesn’t take care of business.
The Bulldogs – who face No.1 Alabama, No. 6 LSU and No. 19 Texas A&M over the next three weeks – ran their winning streak to eight games last weekend with a 41-31 victory over Tennessee.
But the Bulldogs must be careful not to look past a Middle Tennessee team on Saturday that is 3-0 on the road and already has a 21-point victory at Georgia Tech to its credit.
The Blue Raiders, however, have shown a tendency to play to the level of their competition, as evidenced by their need for a late rally in last Saturday’s 34-30 victory over winless Florida International.
Middle Tennessee State (4-2): The Blue Raiders lost RB Benny Cunningham for the rest of the season against Florida International due to a knee injury, Cunningham, who led the Sun Belt with 600 yards rushing and 11 touchdowns, will likely be replaced by some combination of Jordan Parker and Drayton Calhoun.
Cunningham’s loss may only accentuate the ball-security issues Middle Tennessee has experienced with 11 turnovers this season against a ball-hawking Bulldogs’ defense. Without their leading rusher, the Blue Raiders will likely lean more on their passing attack, which ranks second in the Sun Belt in efficiency.
Mississippi State Bulldogs (6-0): The Bulldogs, off to their best start since beginning the 1999 season with eight straight wins, have scored at least 25 points in their first six games for the first time in the 113-year history of the football program.
The Mississippi State defense has done a fine job at getting the ball back to the offense by forcing 18 turnovers – tied for the fourth-highest total in the country – and rank in the top 20 nationally in interceptions and fumbles recovered. The Bulldogs have trailed for only 16:11 of game action this season, the fifth-best mark in FBS.
1. Mississippi State leads the all-time series 4-0.
2. Since becoming a FBS school in 1999, the Blue Raiders are 0-13 against ranked opponents.