With an overall record of 3-2, which includes a 1-2 mark in SEC play, Mississippi State has spent the first five weeks of the 2015 college football season bouncing in and out of the Top 25. Ranked No. 21 last week, the Bulldogs lost 30-17 to No. 14 Texas A&M in a matchup of SEC West rivals in College Station. Three SEC games are already in the books, so Mississippi State is taking a two-week break from conference play beginning with this week’s home contest against Troy.
Troy at Mississippi State
Kickoff: 4 p.m. ET (Saturday)
TV Channel: SEC Network
Spread: Mississippi State -30.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Dak Prescott’s Streak of Consecutive Passes Without an Interception
Having completed 20 of 24 passes for 210 yards last week against Texas A&M, Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott is now 115-for-176 for 1,279 yards and seven touchdowns without an interception this season, making him one of three FBS quarterbacks to throw for more than 1,000 yards this season without an interception.
His accuracy this season increases Prescott’s school record streak to 225 passes without an interception, which is also the longest active streak in the nation and is the third-longest such streak in SEC history. If he attempts 101 additional passes without being picked off, Prescott will pass former Kentucky QB Andre Woodson’s record of 325.
2. A New, Yet Familiar Face on the Troy Sideline
After a 24-year period in which Troy moved from NCAA Division II to Division I-AA (FCS), then to Division I-A (FBS) under the direction of one head coach, Neal Brown was hired to replace Larry Blakeney at Troy following the 2014 season. It’s the first head-coaching gig of Brown’s career, and he’s off to a 1-3 start. While Brown has obviously never faced Mississippi State as a head coach, it’s the third consecutive season in which he has faced the Bulldogs. Brown called plays against State as Kentucky’s offensive coordinator in both 2013 and '14 — games the Bulldogs won 28-22 and 45-31, respectively.
3. An Improving Mississippi State Ground Game
It’s no secret that Mississippi State has struggled running the football this season. Through five games, the Bulldogs rank No. 12 in the SEC and No. 98 in the country with an average of 144.8 rushing yards per game, and State has yet to have a running back gain more than 57 yards on the ground in a single game this season.
However, Prescott has done it twice, including a 96-yard performance in last week’s loss to Texas A&M. State gained 196 rushing yards on 34 carries against the Aggies, for an impressive 5.8 yards per attempt. Though Ashton Shumpert, Aeris Williams and Brandon Holloway combined for just 45 of those yards on 12 carries, true freshman Malik Dear exploded for a 52-yard touchdown in his only carry.
It’s not yet Homecoming in Starkville, but this week’s game has that Homecoming-ish feel that comes with hosting a Sun Belt Conference opponent in the middle of the season. Troy is a program in transition, and has struggled on offense (21.5 points and 299.8 total yards per game) and defense (29.2 points and 397.5 total yards allowed per game) thus far, and isn’t likely to pose much of a threat to the Bulldogs.
Prediction: Mississippi State 41, Troy 17
— Written by Nicholas Ian Allen, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Allen's work on college football can also be found on SaturdayBlitz.com and FanSided.com. Follow him on Twitter @NicholasIAllen.