Mississippi State has won its last three games and still clings to a faint glimmer of SEC title hopes. Missouri has dropped its last three, and would give almost anything for the offensive floodgates to open Thursday night, instead of, or in addition to the skies..
The Bulldogs have been charging hard since early October. With a meaty (Alabama, Arkansas and Ole Miss) SEC West slate on the docket after Mizzou, Mississippi State must find a way to keep churning out wins.
Here is everything you need to know about today’s contest:
No. 20 Mississippi State Bulldogs (6-2, 2-2 SEC) vs. Missouri Tigers (4-4, 1-4 SEC)
Kickoff: Thursday, Nov. 5, 9:00 pm ET (ESPN)
Weather: 64 degrees, 70 percent chance of thunderstorms (Weather.com)
Line: Mississippi State -7.5
By the numbers
1 – There is exactly one quarterback in the country that has thrown more passes (260) than Dak Prescott with only one or fewer interceptions. Both Prescott and Memphis’ Paxton Lynch are tied with one pick each. Lynch has thrown 26 passes more than Prescott. There are only four passers in the nation with more than 200 passing attempts and only one interception. This is an elite club.
6 – Sitting atop the SEC leaderboard in receiving touchdowns is Bulldogs pass-catcher De’Runnya Wilson, who’s tied with Ole Miss star Laquon Treadwell with six. Wilson is tied for 22nd in the country, 12 touchdowns behind Baylor’s Corey Coleman.
18 – Mississippi State has pushed 18 players into the NFL since 2010. When the Bulldogs take the field Thursday, there may be at least four players participating that could be drafted in April, 2016: Wilson, defensive tackle Chris Jones, Prescott and cornerback Taveze Calhoun. If cornerback Will Redmond wasn’t injured, he’d be on this list as well.
Storylines to watch
Can Mississippi State protect Prescott, and can the quarterback stay mistake free?
The Missouri defense is tied for fifth in the conference with eight interceptions and tied for third with 22 sacks. Those two figures may go hand-in-hand for the Tigers as they’ll try to bring tons of pressure on the typically unflappable Prescott.
What will the Bulldogs do defensively to contain Drew Locke?
In Missouri’s last three games, the Tigers have scored a combined 12 points. Before you grab your calculator, that’s a measly four points per game. Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen said Wednesday that he doesn’t consider Tigers quarterback Drew Locke a freshman any longer because of the comfort and experience he’s gained this season. But Locke hasn’t thrown a touchdown pass in over a calendar month and he’s only completed 50.7 percent of his passes in 2015.
Will Mississippi State’s offense continue its torrid pace?
The Bulldogs finished the month of October ranked third in the SEC in scoring at 37.3 points per game. In addition, no team in the league had more red-zone touchdowns (13) than Mississippi State. Missouri ranks first in scoring defense in 2015 (12.5 points per game) and only three teams have given up fewer than the 10 red-zone touchdowns allowed by the Tigers. Which unit — Mizzou’s defense or Mississippi State’s offense — will be stronger?
Prediction: Mississippi State 25, Missouri 10
Mississippi State has only been held to fewer than 30 points three times this year. A rabid Missouri defense combined with the good possibility of thunderstorms should hold the Bulldogs back offensively.
But Missouri doesn’t have enough offensive firepower to stay with one of the SEC’s top offenses, and Prescott is experienced enough to put ample points on the board to win handily.