Through four games, No. 21 Mississippi State (4-0, 1-0 SEC) is averaging 399.0 yards of offense. That ranks ninth in the SEC and 68th in the country. So, it’s respectable, but not great, and it seems a bit low when you consider the level of competition MSU has faced thus far.
This is supposed to be the season MSU’s offense puts it all together. There’s a deep stable of running backs and receivers, and Tyler Russell has brought new life to the passing game. And it’s not as if Russell or the other skill guys have performed poorly; far from it, as there have been some very good individual showings in the early going.
But there have been lapses. MSU only scored seven points in the first half against Auburn. It went cold in the third quarter at Troy. It punted on its first four possessions against South Alabama. Russell did not look good at all this last game, completing just 13 of 27 passes with an interception and no touchdowns.
We can look for reasons all day to explain these dry spells, and a good theory is a lack of proper motivation these last two games because of A) a hangover from the Auburn win, and B) the fact these were two Sun Belt teams. Still, it’s somewhat concerning, and I guess it speaks well of what Dan Mullen has done at State, that averaging nearly 400 yards of offense doesn’t make everything hunky-dory.
Let’s do a comparison. In Mullen’s first season, 2009, MSU was averaging 355.5 yards through four games and finished with a 371.9-yard average. In 2010, the four-game average was 349.3, but the season average was 401.3 – the highest so far under Mullen and, according to the MSU media guide, only the second time in school history the 400-yard number had been eclipsed (422.0 ypg in 1982).
Last year, MSU tore out of the gates with a 427.3-yard average through four games, but it cooled off and ended with an average of 357.2. MSU was an OK passing team last year, averaging 181.8 ypg; so far this year it’s averaging 214.8. And you get the feeling that this year’s offense is a lot further removed from its ceiling that last year’s was at this point; in fact, the first four games last year kind of proved to be fool’s gold.
I’d be surprised if the 399.0 average didn’t go up and stay up as the season goes on.