Sizing up the SEC: What to look for in 2017

MSU's Dan Mullen
By: 
COLLIN BRISTER
Staff Writer

With football season coming up, the Daily Times Leader is taking a look at every SEC team going into the 2017 season.

MISSISSIPPI STATE OFFENSE

Mississippi State will be lead by junior quarterback Nick Fitzgerald on the offensive side of the football in the 2017 season.

Fitzgerald has shown throughout his career at Mississippi State that he can run the football all over the field and extend plays when things break down, but the one area of criticism that’s always found him is his inconsistent down field passing.

The Tennessee native improved toward the end of the year, and showed that teams will have to respect his ability to throw the football down the field as well as respect him as the elite runner that he is.

The Bulldogs will be without the services of Fred Ross, who led them from the receiver position last season, as he had elite playmaking ability and was tough to cover in one-on-one situations. The good news for the Bulldogs is that they have guys that can step in and pick up that slack that he left behind.

At the running back position they’ll be loaded with sophomore running back Aeris Williams taking the load of the carries with seniors Ashton Shumpert and Brandon Holloway departing.

Williams showed at the end of the season that he’s poised to be the bell cow for the Bulldogs, and that he can shoulder the load of an SEC running back.

MISSISSIPPI STATE DEFENSE

Mississippi State lost talent on the defensive side of the football after the 2016 season, including AJ Jefferson and linebacker Riche Brown.

They’ll have talented players eager to replace those guys, and new defensive coordinator Todd Grantham has a track record of success during his coaching stops.

If Mississippi State can get after the quarterback and put constant pressure on opposing teams decision-makers, they’ll have a chance to compete. The Bulldogs have the depth in the front seven to cause teams trouble running the football.

EASTERN OPPONENTS

Every SEC western division team will play the other six teams in a round-robin format, and then each team will host and travel to one opponent from the Eastern Division.

KENTUCKY

Mississippi State will play Kentucky at home this year after traveling to Lexington last season and falling short as the Wildcats knocked home a game-winning field goal to win.

The Wildcats have a solid nucleus of players back and also return their quarterback, but with the Wildcats playing in Starkville, it’s likely Mississippi State will come out with a victory.

GEORGIA

The Bulldogs from Athens are going to be a tall task for Mississippi State next season, as they return some key components on the offensive side of the football.

Sophomore quarterback Jacob Eason will likely be much better next season, and the presence of Nick Chubb will make it a tough order for Mississippi State to win in Athens next season.

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