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BYU Cougars vs. Mississippi State Bulldogs Preview and Prediction

Dan Mullen

Dan Mullen

Kalani Sitake College Football

Both Mississippi State and BYU are desperately looking for wins right now. Mississippi State (3-2, 1-2 SEC) is coming off a bye week after suffering conference losses on the road to two top-10 teams in Georgia and Auburn by a combined score of 80-13.

Things haven’t been any better on the BYU side of things, in fact, they’ve been worse. BYU (1-5) is currently on a five-game losing streak and last week’s 24-7 loss to an average Boise State team didn’t leave a feeling of progress being made prior to heading into SEC country.

This is the second game in a two-game series between the schools, and it’s the first time BYU has made the trip to Starkville since 2001, a game that the Cougars won 41-38. For those keeping track at home that’s just 29 fewer points than BYU has scored through six games this season... combined. But hey, the Cougars still have the dancing Cosmo video that has everyone turnt on their caffeine in Provo!

BYU at Mississippi State

Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 14 at 12 p.m. ET

TV Channel: SEC Network

Spread: Mississippi State -24

Three Things to Watch

1. Mississippi State seeking revenge

Last year, Mississippi State and BYU put together a Friday night, double-overtime thriller that ultimately resulted in BYU coming away with a victory on its home field, 28-21.

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That game a year ago in Provo was a breakout for MSU quarterback Nick Fitzgerald who’s now one of the SEC’s best signal-callers.

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Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen was not happy after the game in Provo a year ago with his team and the officiating. You can be assured that he isn’t taking this game lightly, he wants revenge.

2. BYU looking to avoid first six-game losing streak since 1968

The Cougars’ current five-game skid is their longest since 1970. That predates the late great head coach LaVell Edwards. The last time BYU lost six in a row was in 1968 where the Cougars ultimately went 2-8 that season.

These are historic lows for a BYU program that’s fifth in wins among all college football teams over the last 40 years. Boasting the 127th-ranked offense in college football (129 FBS teams) will bring those historic lows in a hurry. For a program that prides itself on being a founder of offensive football as we know it today, this has been a difficult season to watch.

3. Injury status of Mississippi State left tackle Martinas Rankin

Rankin is the most versatile offensive lineman on the Bulldogs’ offensive front, as he’s capable of playing anywhere along on the line. But he has been positioned nicely at the left tackle spot protecting Nick Fitzgerald’s blindside. Rankin’s injury is undisclosed and head coach Dan Mullen did not rule out the possibility of playing Rankin this week against BYU, but his status is up in the air.

Rankin projects to be one of the top offensive line prospects in the 2018 NFL Draft, so his absence or even if he’s limited, could be a big deal for Mississippi State.

Final Analysis

It’s hard to find any area in this game where BYU has an edge against Mississippi State. The Bulldogs’ two losses came against some of the nation’s best in hostile road games. Mississippi State defensive coordinator Todd Grantham in his weekly availability with the media didn’t seem too perplexed by BYU’s offensive schemes when providing the scouting report on them. Nor should he.

College Football Top 25 Rankings: Mississippi State

If Mississippi State avoids coughing up the football and allowing BYU’s defense to either score or put the Cougar offense in a short-field situation, this should be a nice tune-up for the Bulldogs to get back on track before getting back to SEC play.

BYU head coach Kalani Sitake (above, right) has not minced words about his offense this season, and they are still lacking an offensive identity heading into game number seven. That identity won’t be discovered in Stark Vegas.

Prediction: Mississippi State 34, BYU 7

— Written by Mitch Harper, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Harper is BYU Insider for ESPN 960 Sports and Publisher of Cougar Nation, part of the Rivals network. Follow him on Twitter @Mitch_Harper.