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October 12, 2013

Bulldog Keys To Victory: Bowling Green

Mississippi State is coming off a loss to LSU at home 59-26. The Bulldogs look to bounce back with a homecoming night game against Bowling Green a program where Dan Mullen got his start in FBS football.

Who: Bowling Green (5-1) vs. Mississippi State (2-3)
Where: Starkville, Miss.; Davis Wade Stadium at Scott Field
When: Saturday, October 12; 6:30 p.m CT on Fox Sports South
Series Record: First meeting: MSU is having their first meeting in school history with a MAC opponent.

I do not know if I have ever seen a game swing as drastically as I did last weekend at Davis Wade Stadium when MSU went from trailing by four points to losing by 33 in one quarter. The atmosphere at Scott Field was electric for the first three quarters as the Bulldogs looked to put up their best fight against the Tigers since 2009 in Mullen's first year. Everything snowballed from there and MSU lost their 14th-consecutive game to LSU, 59-26.

Now MSU faces another non-conference opponent at home that they should beat but they can't afford to misstep at all from here on out as every win is precious for this team fighting for bowl eligibility down the stretch.

Let's take a look at what I think MSU has to do to win today's ball game against the Falcons of Bowling Green.

Hit the Falcons in the mouth early : This Bowling Green start of 5-1 is a bit skewed considering the schedule that they've played. It's not a knock at the Falcons because they're a MAC team and they're beating the teams that are more on their level. However, they've only played one BCS opponent in Indiana in which the Hoosiers rolled them 42-10.

MSU can close this game out early in my opinion if they get the quick score quick and make a few stops. I think facing a bigger and better team on their home turf with a loud crowd will get into the heads of the Falcon players and a couple of touchdowns early will put them away for good. MSU must remained focused this week and get a decisive victory going into the bye before the stretch run in the SEC to end the season.

Run the football for the majority of the game: This is a great opportunity for MSU to use its stable of running backs to take advantage of a defense that has dropped off a lot from last year's team that led the MAC and was 12th nationally in rushing defense. This year, Bowling Green gives up 150 yards per game on the ground against lesser opponents. The MSU offense has rushed for over 200 yards in each of the last five ball games including 216 last week against LSU. I would not be surprised to see 300 yards on the ground balanced out between Dak Prescott, Ladarius Perkins, Derek Milton, Ashton Shumpert, Josh Robinson and Nick Griffin. They all need to get a load of carries in this game and worry about the pass second.

Big Plays from the Secondary: MSU's secondary is not filled with terrible talent. As a matter of fact, there is great talent in the defensive backfield. A season-ending injury to safety Jay Hughes has proved to be a huge reason why MSU's pass defense has given up some big plays and Taveze Calhoun and Jamerson Love have been banged up nearly every game. This week, I wouldn't expect Love on the field which opens the door for younger players to step up.

Will Redmond makes his debut in this game and I would think we see him in the second quarter and possibly most of the second half if there is a big lead for the Bulldogs. Getting him reps so he can help the depth increase down the line is crucial for Dan Mullen and I think that's what we see later today. An interception or two would go a long way for the young defense's confidence and by someone other than Nickoe Whitley who has three of the five picks this season. Look out for Cedric Jiles and Calhoun making a play in this game.

Prediction: This game is incredibly important for MSU. While I've seen many students selling their tickets this week and not interested, this is crucial for the Bulldogs' chances of making a bowl. A slip up in this game would prove to be disastrous and I think the players and coaches know that. I think the team comes out focused and makes a statement similar to what they did against Troy three weeks ago. Look for the defense to have a big game and lots of playing time from young players on the offensive side of the ball.
MSU, 51-17

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