The Volunteers rank 11th in the SEC in regards to defending the pass. The Vols surrender nearly 240 yards through the air per game?that is until last week. The young secondary held UGA to 174 passing and showed signs of obvious improvement. True freshman, Eric Berry will start at safety while fellow freshman Brent Vinson, a converted WR, will be the starting left corner. Despite the youth this unit is playing better football.
Freshman Wesley Carroll has earned the confidence of his head coach and was named the starter following last week's game against UAB. The Bulldogs passing attack is last in the SEC with only 133 yards per game. State have playmakers Tony Burks (WR) and Eric Butler (TE) but has been rather ineffective due to lack of productivity at QB.
This unit could be considered the strength of the defense. Jerod Mayo and Rico McCoy led the team in tackles against UGA with 11 each. Mayo leads the team in tackles with 36 while McCoy is second with 33. The third member of this trio is Ryan Karl who stand fifth with 21 tackles. Both Mayo and Carl are returning starters and provide experience in the middle of the field.
The ground game goes through Anthony Dixon and his 98 yards per game average. Dixon has nine TDs on the season and is tide with Tim Tebow for tops in the SEC. Dixon carried the ball 32 times for 152 yards and three TDs last week against UAB, all career highs.
The DL has been a suspect group for the Vols this season. They allowed 433 yards on the ground to
. However, last week they rebounded to hold UGA to just 69 yards rushing. The DL has been bringing the heat with a pass rush that has totaled five sacks and 14 tackles for a loss this season. The player to account ofr it Xavier Mitchell as he leads the group with 16 tackles.
The big guys up front for Mississippi State continue to open holes for running back and protecting the QB. Last season the OL was big question mark but they have transformed into a dependable group that allows the Bulldog offense to move the football on the ground.
ranks ninth in the SEC in rushing but the ground attack may have gotten back on track against
with 190 yards last weekend. Arian Foster led the way with 98 yards on 17 carries and three touchdowns. He is averaging just over five yards per carry and can be a workhorse back for the Vols. LaMarcus Coker and Montario Hardesty will split time in the backfield, resting Foster.
Bulldog linebacker top the tackles list as Jamar Chaney (42), Dominic Douglas (40), and Gabe O'Neal (36) provide a solid run defense. When you add hard hitting Jamon Hughes and veteran Anthony Littlejohn the Bulldogs linebackers are the strength of the defense.
The OL has been out standing on Rocky Top this season by allowing only two sacks in 193 passing plays this season, tops in the nation. The OL is also partly responsible for a ground attacked that has rushed for more than 150 yards in each of their last two contests. The unit is led by the lone senior, Eric Young, who has 20 starts under his belt.
The Bulldogs are fourth in the SEC in run defense thanks in large part ot he efforts of the rotation of guys up front. Jessie Bowman, Kyle Love, Quinton Wesley on the inside with Titus Brown, Avery Hannibal, Tim Bailey and Jimmie Holmes on the outside, has proven to be a run stopping rotation. Brown also provides a solid pass rush with six sacks on the season.
comes into the game leading the SEC in passing with 259 yards per game, which is impressive. QB, Erik Ainge has quick release that keeps him from being pressured and he is extremely accurate. He is completing 67 percent of his passes to go with 10 TD tosses. If given time he can certainly pick a part a secondary. Two of Ainge's favorite targets are WR Lucas Taylor and TE Chris Brown. On the season
has 30 receptions for 432 yards. Brown has been a touchdown magnet with four of Ainge's touchdown passes.
The Bulldogs have played solid defense in the secondary but have had a hard time getting off the field in third and long situations. State must improve that aspect if they expect to get by one of the better passing attacks in the nation. Conerbacks, Anthony Jonshon and Marcus Washington have played well in man situations so look for Mississippi State to use the safeties to add pressure on the QBs.
UT Special Teams
MSU Special Teams
is home ot one of the best kickers in the nation. Daniel Lincoln is a perfect 8-of-8 on field goal attempts and 21-of-21 on PAT's so far this season. He has a career long filed goal of 47 yards. The coverage team is a different story. The Vols have allowed 184 punt return yards in just eight attempts. Utility man, LaMarcus Coker, averages 29 yard per kick return.
While special teams have not been stellar for the Bulldogs this season, they have only allowed the one big play. The Bulldogs will need to be solid again this week to slip by the Volunteers.