Friday, September 3, 2010

PREVIEW: Tigers at Mississippi State

Posted By on Fri, Sep 3, 2010 at 8:00 AM

Saturday, 6 pm (ESPNU)

• The Bulldogs hold a decided edge in the series, having won 31 of 42 games. The programs haven’t met since 2003, after having played every season between 1974 and 2003. The last Memphis victory came at the Liberty Bowl in the 1993 season-opener, when the Tigers upset the 23rd-ranked Bullies, 45-35. The Tigers are 4-14 in Starkville, but coach Larry Porter is actually undefeated there. He won twice as a player and three times as an assistant at LSU.

• The Tigers and Bulldogs have met in seven season-openers. Memphis won in 1979 and 1993. MSU won in 1953, ’54, ’75, ’80, and ’81.

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• A victory for the Tigers in Starkville would end a five-year drought for the program. Memphis hasn’t won a season-opener since beating Ole Miss to start the 2004 campaign.

• The Tigers have had trouble, historically, scoring against the Bulldogs. Over its 10-game losing streak from 1994 to 2003, only once did Memphis exceed 20 points.

• Memphis coach Larry Porter was part of two big season-opening wins during his playing days with the Tigers. As a sophomore, he helped Memphis upset 16th-ranked Southern Cal in Los Angeles. Then as a senior in 1993, he was part of the victory over Mississippi State.

• In 2009, the Bulldogs led the SEC in rushing with an average of 228 yards per game (good for ninth nationally), thanks largely to the efforts of the since-departed Anthony Dixon. (Dixon finished his career with 3,994 yards, eighth in SEC history.) Four of five starters return for the MSU offensive line. Quarterback Chris Relf and tailback Robert Elliott will be the chief threats this season. The Tiger defense allowed an average of 174 yards on the ground a year ago.

• Over the last 10 seasons, Mississippi State has won 42 games, fewest in the SEC except for Vanderbilt (34).

• Memphis is the first of three C-USA teams on Mississippi State’s schedule this season. The Bulldogs play Houston and UAB in October. The Tigers face one other SEC team (Tennessee on November 6th).

• Coming off a 5-7 season a year ago, the Bulldogs will be playing their second season under coach Dan Mullen. At five of Mullen’s previous stops (Wagner, Notre Dame, Bowling Green, Utah, and Florida), his team’s record improved in year two.

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