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Previews 2016: Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Texas A&M

Previews 2016: Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Texas A&M

The offseason has been a turbulent one for Ole Miss, more so the result of an NCAA investigation into recruiting violations than anything happening on the field. The Rebels have been effective spoilers under Hugh Freeze, but haven’t shown the mental toughness necessary yet to take the final step and win the division. Now, Ole Miss will have to prove it can take that final step while dealing with off-field distractions and replacing starters at over half the positions on the field.

Rating the 2016 SEC recruiting classes

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Rating the 2016 SEC recruiting classes

The addition of Jamar King at the last moment brought Alabama up to a rating of “Excellent” in the “Needs Filled” category; otherwise, it would have been hard to rank the Crimson Tide No. 1 in the country overall over Florida State. Alabama, over the past few years, has finished with at least one position group’s worth of signees somewhere to be called best-in-class; in 2016, Alabama did it for at least one position group and maybe as many as three. Alabama got the nation’s best linebacker haul, picking up three 10.0-rated prospects on Signing Day: Ben Davis, Lyndell Wilson and Terrell Hall. But Alabama also was in the running for best OL class, headed by Jonah Williams

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MSU wrap-up: Bama defense may be in ‘best-ever’ territory

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MSU wrap-up: Bama defense may be in ‘best-ever’ territory

If you want to start a spirited discussion on any Alabama fan board, trot out the modifier “best-ever” and ask people for opinions.

Alabama’s long, storied football history has produced many “best-evers,” from wide receiver Don Hutson in the 1930s to linebacker Lee Roy Jordan in the the 1960s (and later Derrick Thomas in the 1980s) to Dwight Stephenson to John Hannah to Mark Ingram and on and on and on.

Beyond individuals, Alabama can lay serious claim to having the best-ever college defense at several points in its history.

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MSU Preview: Bulldogs again make Bama’s post-LSU life uncomfortable

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MSU Preview: Bulldogs again make Bama’s post-LSU life uncomfortable

Alabama has made an art form lately out of losing a regular-season game, then finding some way to get back into the national title discussion. But the one thing Alabama has failed to do on several occasions over the past few years is shut down a hot quarterback – particularly one that is mobile and who can improvise on the fly.

Mississippi State’s Prescott is perhaps at the top of the list of quarterbacks who can do such. He has amassed 2,351 yards passing and has thrown 18 touchdowns to only 1 interception. He is the team’s leading rusher, gaining almost twice as many yards as the guy in second place, who happens to start at tailback. He has leadership skills that are simply overflowing. And he led a furious near-comeback against Alabama last year in Bryant-Denny Stadium.

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Previews 2015: Mississippi State Bulldogs

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Previews 2015: Mississippi State Bulldogs

Mississippi State overachieved greatly in 2014, in the process solidifying Dan Mullen’s hold on the head coaching position in Starkville – and, unfortunately, lifting future expectations. As often happens with Mississippi State, success does not appear to be sustainable. The Bulldogs simply haven’t recruited consistently enough to remain in the SEC’s upper echelon, and had its starting quarterback not elected to return to school, State would be staring a losing record in the face. As is, the Bulldogs will do well to get back to the postseason.

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MSU preview: For perhaps the first time ever, Bama is the hunter, not the hunted

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MSU preview: For perhaps the first time ever, Bama is the hunter, not the hunted

Alabama is coming off its annual exposure to trench warfare, otherwise known as the LSU game, and the results were almost too terrible to imagine. Alabama needed a last-minute, game-tying drive and an overtime period to defeat the Bayou Bengals, and the Tide’s reward is a date with a Bulldog team that is more dynamic offensively, has better speed at the quarterback position and who spent last week toying with UT-Martin.

If this game was being played in Starkville, it would be even more of a circus than it figures to be in Tuscaloosa. But with Alabama’s home-field performances being so strong in 2014, the top concern might not be Mississippi State, but the annual post-LSU hangover from which the Crimson Tide always seems to suffer.

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Previews 2014: Mississippi State Bulldogs

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Previews 2014: Mississippi State Bulldogs

The Bulldogs have been mentioned as potential darkhorse contenders seemingly every year since Dan Mullen took over the team five years ago – but this time, the hype might be for real. The Bulldogs have the SEC’s most dynamic young quarterback, a veteran roster and a stout defense. Those factors are usually a good combination for teams looking to break into the upper echelon of an SEC division.

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MSU wrap-up: Mistakes belie a dominating win

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MSU wrap-up: Mistakes belie a dominating win

With several teams still left undefeated in major college football this late in November, the subject of “style points” is sure to come up in any discussion of which team or teams should be ranked atop the standings.

The only style points Alabama put up against Mississippi State on Saturday was in showing how stylishly a team could dismiss the fallout of turnovers.

Alabama’s 20-7 win over the Bulldogs will probably be enough to keep Alabama atop the BCS standings. The effort behind that victory won’t be enough to beat Auburn in two weeks.

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MSU preview: Tide’s biggest opponent this week? Emotional letdown

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MSU preview: Tide’s biggest opponent this week? Emotional letdown

Mississippi State is a team in transition in 2013. And unfortunately for the Bulldogs, it’s a transition from contender to bottom-feeder.

The Bulldogs have become, overall, a respectable SEC team under head coach Dan Mullen, but have yet to take the next step up. Mullen has become somewhat notable, not necessarily for his successes, but rather for his struggles against other SEC West opponents. He also heads the program that lost Cam Newton to Auburn in 2010, and in seasons since, the program endured allegations of NCAA rules violations. No SEC program embodies the concept of “almost” quite like Mississippi State.

But the biggest problem Mississippi State faces in the here and now, is that this is a team that continues to lose ground to all six of its SEC West competitors in regards to talent. MSU’s recruiting has always been scattershot, no matter the name on the head coach’s door. And in 2013, the Bulldogs find themselves rebuilding a defense undercut by graduation, and a depth chart that has suffered several key losses due to injury. Questionable handling of the quarterback situation has done Mississippi State no favors, either.

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2013 Fall Previews: Mississippi State Bulldogs

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2013 Fall Previews: Mississippi State Bulldogs

Despite being a part of Southern football for decades and winning a SEC championship in the 1940s, Mississippi State’s program arguably reached its zenith over the past few seasons of Dan Mullen’s tenure. The Bulldogs went from being cannon fodder to a respectable program that could beat teams of better talent, if those opponents lacked discipline. But is it time for a correction? Mississippi State is largely rebuilding its defense in 2013, and SEC defensive coordinators seem to have caught up to the Bulldogs’ offensive schemes. A couple of ho-hum recruiting classes adds to the concern.

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