There are many reasons to believe Mississippi State will equal or exceed last season's success – 31 reasons, in fact. Here's Reason No. 13.
Mississippi State's defense lived out that bend-but-don't-break cliché last season. Despite ranking ninth in the SEC in pass defense (237.8 yards per game) and eighth in total defense (356.8 ypg), the Bulldogs were third in scoring defense (19.8 points per game), which also ranked 21st in the nation.
According to cfbstats.com, MSU was tied for 38th in the nation both in plays of 20-plus yards allowed (47) and of 40-plus yards allowed (10). State gave up six plays of 50-plus yards, and the national median was nine. Coaches like to call these "chunk" plays.
And check this out: Only 15 of the 47 plays of 20-plus yards and five of the 10 of 40-plus yards came in losses. So few big plays were given up in big moments (the Alabama game being a notable exception).
With a deep and deeply experienced secondary returning, the prevailing thought is that MSU will be even stingier downfield, although the linebackers must prove how effective they can be versus the run. Senior safety Charles Mitchell has a big role in that, too.
As cornerback Corey Broomfield said the other day, they don't give out points for yards. MSU forces teams to grind it out, which helps explain why State ranked third in the SEC in red zone defense. Several small plays can take it out of an offense.