We continue our preview of LSU’s 2011 football opponents and the rest of the Southeastern Conference with a look at Mississippi State. We’re counting them down one a day through July 16.
Mississippi State Bulldogs (7 p.m. Sept. 15, Davis Wade Stadium at Scott Field, Starkville, Miss.; ESPN)
2010 Record: 9-4 (4-4 SEC)
Bowl: Beat Michigan in the Gator Bowl, 52-14
Coach: Dan Mullen (14-11, 3rd year at MSU)
Starters returning: 9 offense, 7 defense
Top returners: Passing – QB Chris Relf (129 of 220, 1,789 yards, 13 TDs, 6 INTs); Rushing – RB Vick Ballard (186 carries, 968 yards, 19 TDs); Receiving – WR Chad Bumphis (44 catches, 634 yards, 5 TDs); Tackles – SS Charles Mitchell (93 total tackles, 3 TFLs)
Noteworthy: Expectations are at a full boil in Starkville after the Bulldogs’ best season since 1999 (10-2), heated up by the Gator Bowl dismantling of Michigan and Mullen’s decision not to pursue a more high-profile job. His new four-year deal pays $2.65 million/year, more than doubling his salary. … Ballard led the SEC in touchdowns in 2010 (19 rushing, 1 receiving), and Relf has steadily improved at quarterback. … Linebacker is a concern, but Clemson transfer Brandon Maye is expected to step right into the starting MLB role. … LSU has won 11 straight over MSU, 18 of the last 19 overall and nine of the last 10 in Starkville. … The Tigers kicked off their 2007 BCS championship season with a 45-0 Thursday night win at Mississippi State. This one will be on Thursday night as well. … It’s been 70 years since MSU’s only SEC championship (1941). State won the SEC West in 1998 but lost the SEC Championship Game to eventual BCS champion Tennessee.
– Scott Rabalais
Tuesday: West Virginia