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Pre-game at Davis Wade Stadium: It's Homecoming at MSU as Bowling Green comes to Starkville



Matt Stevens


STARKVILLE - Welcome to Week 7 of the 2013 college football season. The Dispatch MSU Sports Blog will be LOOKING LIVE.....at Davis Wade Stadium as the Bulldogs (2-3) face Bowling Green (5-1) (6:30 p.m., FSN South).  




NOTE: As always go ahead and refresh this blog post up to kickoff for the latest information on the game.  




UPDATED (6 p.m.) -- Here's the Mississippi State starting lineup updates as announced by the team spokesperson:  


- Redshirt freshman Justin Senior will start in place of senior Blaine Clausell at LT 




- Junior Dillon Day is announced as a starter at center over senior Dylan Holley at C 




- Kaleb Eulls is moved from DT to starting DE  




- P.J. Jones and Chris Jones will both start at DT 




- Junior Justin Cox is starting at CB for Jamerson Love. Love was taken off the field last week on crutches with a leg injury.  








Here's what we've always done to do for our pre-game blog: I'm going to give you the five major questions that will be answered on the field this evening two key players for both teams and a number to keep in mind. 




Can the Mississippi State defense recover from giving up 59 points last week? 




The 59 points put up by LSU (5-1, 2-1) is the most points scored in the rivalry since 1969 when the Tigers won 61-6 in Baton Rouge. The 26-point margin is the largest of each of LSU's five straight wins over a Dan Mullen led MSU squad. LSU's 59 points were the most allowed by the Bulldogs since Tennessee scored 59 on Nov. 15, 2003.  


One week later one of the best Mid-American Conference programs comes to Davis Wade Stadium and MSU coach Geoff Collins compared the offense to what Troy brought to Starkville a few weeks ago.  


"The fact is LSU had a NFL quarterback with a pair of NFL wide receivers," Collins said. "They made plays and made critical plays with our guys in position to get off the field on third down. That's the bottom line." 


MSU players have talked about the best way to eliminate the memory of LSU constantly finding the end zone is getting back on the field.  


"There's a pride thing going on in our minds during practice this week," MSU sophomore linebacker Benardrick McKinney said. "We don't feel like we played up to our standards last week for four quarters and are eager to prove that's not who we are." 




Will MSU figure out how to turn red zone opportunities into touchdown? 




In a very sabermetric way of looking at red zone scoring, MSU coach Dan Mullen looks at what he calls "point potential". The MSU staff considers every red zone trip should result in a touchdown and therefore, should end with seven points. Mullen then subtracts the potential points from the red zone possession as a converted field goal would be leaving four points off the scoreboard. A turnover or no points on the drive would be seven potential points lost. In the 59-26 loss to No. 10 LSU, Mullen placed Mississippi State's offense at a -15 rating. Three of Mississippi State's drives ended with two field goals and a missed field goal. In those three drives, MSU (2-3) left 16 points on the field if you account for the missed two-point conversion on the first score. MSU offense as they come into this weekend contest ranked 12th in the Southeastern Conference in getting touchdowns while in the red zone. The Bulldogs' 60.87 percent is only higher than Florida and Kentucky, which have touchdown percentages below 50. 




Will MSU find ways to get freshman tailback Ashton Shumper the ball more? 




Since getting 98 yards on the ground in his college football debut in the home opener against Alcorn State, Ashton Shumpert has been limited in terms of opportunities. The highly-praised freshman from Tupelo finished with 22 carries and two touchdown runs in front of 55,085 fans eagerly anticipating his debut. However, Shumpert has received a total of seven carries in the next three games total and didn't play at all against LSU last weekend. With the return of senior LaDarius Perkins from a serious ankle injury, it'll be interesting to see if MSU finds more ways to get Shumpert the ball so his first season at MSU isn't seen as a wasteful ordeal when a redshirt option was available.  


"As a true freshman coming in, he's done a really good job," Mullen said. "We talk about development of players and he's obviously been accelerated playing as a freshman getting on the field. He's getting the ball in his hands, learning how to be a back, learning how to do pass protections, how to block, carry out fakes." 






Will the Mid-American Conference pull off another upset of a Bowl Championship Series program? 




MSU coach Dan Mullen, who is 18-4 in non-conference games at MSU, knows very well the mental makeup of the players that will be making their first trip to Davis Wade Stadium. It's the underdog attitude that led to upsets over Missouri and Northwestern while Mullen was with the Falcons program as a quarterback coach under head coach Urban Meyer. Last season the MAC had 16 victories outside of conference against Football Bowl Subdivision teams. This year to date, only six. Last season MAC teams earned victories over the likes of Penn State and Rutgers. This season, only Northern Illinois' win over Iowa represents the lone BCS upset and that wasn't a shocker as the Huskers reached the Orange Bowl in 2012.  




Can MSU's patchwork offensive line continue to hold up with all the recent injuries? 




MSU lost two more offensive lineman in the fourth quarter of its 59-26 loss to LSU Saturday when offensive tackle Blaine Clausell and offensive guard Ben Beckwith needed to be helped off the field. With the loss of guard Justin Malone for rest of the 2013 season, MSU could possibly be without two starters from the season opener and Beckwith was counted on as a critical backup as an interior lineman.  


Mullen suggested he and the coaching staff expected everyone to play Saturday but it's still unknown if the fifth-year coach is playing mind games as usual until kickoff.  


"When you play a big, physical SEC game like that you're going to be bruised," Mullen said. "But I don't think there were any significant injuries of that group. But whether they will be available this week, we'll find out a little later today." 




Players to Watch 








Senior QB Tyler Russell  


Russell finished 7 of 11 for 146 yards and two touchdowns in his first game back since the concussion in the season opener. However, he couldn't get many snaps in the second half when LSU began to pull away for another victory in Starkville.  


Sophomore CB Will Redmond 


Saturday will be the college football debut of Redmond now that he has finished out his NCAA suspension for the rules violations occurring before he arrived on campus. With the injuries already in place in the MSU secondary, expect to see the Memphis native immediately in a Nickel and Dime defense role on third downs. 






Bowling Green 




Redshirt sophomore QB Matt Johnson 


Johnson was inserted into the season-opener against Tulsa at quarterback to start the Falcons' third possession of the game and guided the Falcons to the 34-7 victory. He then got the first start of his career against Kent State, going 19-for-25 for 357 yards and two touchdown passes, earning MAC East Offensive Player of the Week honors and was one of eight Manning Award Stars of the Week. In the win over Murray State, Johnson was 19-of-22 passing. His .864 completion percentage was the fifth-best single-game percentage in BGSU history. 


Junior LB Paul Senn 


In a two-game stretch against Indiana and Murray State, Senn became a big-play threat on defense and special teams for the Falcons. Senn had a blocked punt return for a touchdown and a fumble recovery on special teams against Indiana. He followed up that performance by stripping Murray State's Maikhai Miller at the two-yard line and the Falcons recovered the fumble. Bowling Green would go 99 yards for a touchdown and a 13-0 lead following the forced fumble. 




Numbers of the game 






Number of Bowling Green players that returned from the 2012 season that were named to the all-conference team.  






Percentage of the Bowling Green roster that consists of freshman and sophomores 








In its four wins, Bowling Green has been 24-of-26 scoring on trips in the red zone. Both of the unsuccessful attempts came when the Falcons went into victory formation and kneeled down for wins over Akron and Umass. 








Number of non-conference home games MSU has won under Dan Mullen.  







Number of members of the MSU coaching staff that spent two years at Bowling Green, from 2001-02 -- Dan Mullen, Billy Gonzales and John Hevesy. 







Sophomore quarterback Dak Prescott has now rushed for 100 yards twice this season following his 103-yard performance against LSU this past weekend. He leads MSU on the ground with 318 yards.  




All of the Dispatch MSU Sports Blog readers: feel free to follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/matthewcstevens for up-to-date Mississippi State coverage.



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