And with that, the season was defined. Any excitement over the 7-0 start was gone. This team lost to Alabama by 31, Texas A&M by 25 LSU by 20 and Ole Miss by 17. The Bulldogs handed Northwestern their first bowl win since the Truman administration. One could say that this team simply got the wind knocked out of them by better opponents - or you could say they got punched in the face and just gave up. So what does all of this mean for Oklahoma State? We've got a team on one hand that was very close (and capable) of being 10-3 in the SEC West but instead quit/choked and finished 8-5.
Players to Watch
Tyler Russell - QB
The senior quarterback broke many records last year in his first season as the full time starter. His is currently the singe season leader in passing yards (2,897), yards per game (222.84) completions (213) and touchdowns (24) yet he never found consistency. He ripped apart Auburn but struggled against Troy and South Alabama. So the question is, can he get better? He'll have help from a seasoned offensive line and a very experienced backfield. Oklahoma State does a pretty good job making average QB's look amazing (see David Ash), so this guy concerns me quite a bit.
LaDarius Perkins - RB
Perkins finished the season with 1024 yards and 8 touchdowns. The senior averaged 5 yards a carry last season but struggled against the stout defensive interiors of Alabama and A&M. He's joined by sophomore Josh Robinson, Junior Nick Griffin and Sophomore Derrick Milton who have all shown the ability churn out yards. They'll need some help up front to make some noise. Perkins is a fast, athletic back the could be a handful for the Cowboy defense.
For the first time since 2008, MSU will not trout out the same receiver corps. The Bulldogs are searching for a new leader, a new big play threat and depth at this position. Not a position I'd want to be in.
The Mississippi State Defense
MSU loss quite a bit of talent on D in the off season, especially in the secondary. The bulldogs finished in the second half of the SEC in completion percentage, yards allowed per game and yards per attempt. So that's great news for Oklahoma State. At the same time though, the Bulldogs have to feel pretty good about what they've got along the front seven, especially at middle linebacker and along the interior of the defensive line. Leading that group will be Sophomore Benardrick McKinney. He's clearly the Bulldog's star on defense.
Mississippi State returns enough talent and experience to be solid on special teams. Sophomore kicker Devon Bell showed a nice leg on longer kicks (4/7 40-49) and was money in the red zone. Senior punter Baker Swedenburg returns as the third-best punter in the SEC. Senior RB Ladarius Perkins will headline the return game and he's athletic enough to be dangerous - especially if Oklahoma State doesn't improve on special teams.
This team reminds me of some early-mid 2000's Oklahoma State teams. Solid at QB and RB. Athletic and capable, but just not enough depth at skill positions to compete at a high level. The Bulldogs will have a lot of fresh faces on both sides of the ball. Not a recipe for success in the SEC West.