Athlon on MSU: A Mediocre Season?

It’s been on the newsstands a few weeks now, but my copy of the Athlon Sports college football preview magazine came in the mail recently. As usual, I have written the bulk of the Mississippi State copy for Athlon, but there are plenty of other MSU mentions in the mag, so let’s run ’em down.

• Cornerback Johnthan Banks was named first-team All-American and first-team All-SEC. Also on the All-SEC squad are OL Gabe Jackson (second team), DL Josh Boyd (second), linebacker Cam Lawrence (third), and Banks again as a punt returner (third).

• Athlon did unit rankings, and here’s where it ranks MSU in the SEC at each position: defensive backs fifth, linebackers sixth, defensive line eighth, quarterbacks ninth, running backs 10th, offensive line 10th, wide receivers/tight ends 12th. I’m not so sure about that last one.

• So, how does Athlon see MSU’s season going? The mag’s prediction (not mine, the mag’s) is a 6-6 regular season, including a 2-6 mark in SEC play. Athlon, which has State 47th in its preseason rankings, places the Bulldogs in the Military Bowl against Marshall. Some Athlon commentary (not from me): “The Bulldogs have made steady progress under coach Dan Mullen, but the program isn’t ready to make a big jump in the SEC West. The offense will miss running back Vick Ballard, while quarterback Tyler Russell will need to prove himself as the full-time starter.”

I can see MSU winning eight games in the regular season without terrible difficulty, and nine is a realistic possibility. Beating Auburn in Week 2 will go a long way in determining which direction the season goes. Athlon has MSU finishing behind both Auburn and Texas A&M in the Western Division, and I’m not sure I buy that.

Phil Steele thinks more highly of the Bulldogs than does Athlon (CLICK HERE), so there’s something for you to debate with friends over steak and beer this holiday.

• Athlon solicited some anonymous commentary from a few opposing coaches. A sampling: “I’d say they’re a spread version of Georgia Tech, and that’s what they try to do. They try to run the ball. … They’re gonna be a well-coached team, especially with Mullen running the show. They always play hard. They’re fast. … (Russell) came in as a pretty hyped recruit, but he was never able to completely beat out (Chris) Relf, so that right there might tell you something. There is pressure on that kid this year.”

• A couple more items: Tailback LaDarius Perkins got mentioned as a sleeper in Athlon’s SEC Fantasy Factor, if you’re into that sort of thing. Also, a roundtable discussion of Athlon editors asked about the country’s most under-the-radar head coaches, and UL-Lafayette’s Mark Hudspeth, a former MSU assistant, got a mention.