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I Wanna SEC You Up: A Cursory Glance at Mississippi State

Given the abs on these State cheerleaders, there really must be nothing to do in Starkville but situps.

After going six straight seasons with three wins or less, is this the year that the Bulldogs finally pull themselves out of the cellar and get to a bowl? Phil Steele seems to think so, putting Mississippi State on his Most Improved List for 2007 after crunching the numbers and finding that the Bulldogs were only four plays away from going 7-5 last year. Eventual Western Division champs Arkansas got by the Bulldogs by the skin of their teeth, needing an interception return for a TD and a McFadden kick off return for a score to come out on top 28-14, while UGA benefitted from a fumble on their 23 yard line with three seconds left in the game to hold off a Bulldog rally Athens. The Bulldog's average margin of defeat last year was 14.8 points, a figure bolstered by severe beatdowns by the likes of LSU and West Virginia, but they were within a TD or less of winning four of their nine losses, leading many State fans to expect the improvement HC Sylvester Croom has been promising sooner rather than later. Here's how last year's 3-9 campaign went for State:

Date Opponent Score
08/31 vs South Carolina 0-15
09/09 vs Auburn 0-34
09/16 vs Tulane 29-32
09/23 at UAB 16-10
09/30 at LSU 17-48
10/07 vs West Virginia 14-42
10/14 vs Jacksonville State 35-3
10/21 at Georgia 24-27
10/28 vs Kentucky 31-34
11/04 at Alabama 24-16
11/18 vs Arkansas 14-28
11/25 at Ole Miss 17-20

We'll leave it to the bloggers to define their expectations, but with nine starters returning on offense to a team that seemed to pull it together and move the ball in the second half of the season, there's hope that this team can finally get some points off of all the yardage they managed to put up last year. Unfortunately, now that the offense has caught up, the defense, a typically reliable unit for Croom since his arrival, only returns five starters and fields a very young and inexperienced bunch against a brutal early season road schedule. Here's a breakdown of who's returning for the Bulldogs:

On Offense:

QB Michael Henig
Michael Henig is exceptionally happy to be here.

RB Anthony Dixon

WR Jamayel Smith

WR Tony Burks

TE Eric Butler

LT Michael Brown

LG Anthony Strauder

C Royce Blackledge

RT Craig Jenkins

On Defense:

DE Titus Brown

LB Gabe O'Neal

FS Derek Pegues

SS Keith Fitzhugh, Jr.

LB Jamar Chaney

Next we'll focus on the offense and see how effective the returning starters can be with last season under their belts.