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5 Keys to Troy-Mississippi State


Matthew Stevens



1. Who is going to play quarterback at Mississippi State? 


Remember this question from last weekend? Get used to seeing it until senior quarterback Tyler Russell is medically cleared for contact. MSU coach Dan Mullen stressed Monday in the weekly media conference he doesn't and hasn't believed a player shouldn't lose their starting job due to an injury. "Anybody can lose their job anytime," Mullen said. "I guess that sounds terrible, and I have a lot of faith in Tyler. He's won some pretty big games and he's our starting quarterback. But in Dak (Prescott) we want to always train multiple starting quarterbacks." Prescott, a sophomore, has filled in more than adequately for Russell in the past two games. He nearly led MSU (1-2) to victory in his first career road start last weekend at Auburn. 


2. Can MSU avoid a repeat of Troy's dominating offense from last year? 


Troy quarterback Corey Robinson was 32 of 46 for 343 yards last year against a secondary that featured two NFL second-round draft picks -- Johnthan Banks and Darius Slay. Robinson's second-half success was part of Troy's 572 total yards, the third-most given up by a MSU defense under Mullen. 


3. Will Mullen continue domination of mid major non-conference programs? 


In his five seasons at MSU, Mullen is 17-4 in non-conference games. Only one of those losses has come against a non-Bowl Championship Series program (Houston in 2009). MSU has played five of the eight teams that make up the Sun Belt Conference, and holds a 25-3-2 advantage. 


4. Can Devon Bell shake his field goal struggles? 


MSU's sophomore kicker is searching for answers to help him have more success from 30 to 39 yards. Bell is 6 of 12 from that range in 16 games. He missed a 35-yard attempt wide right in the first quarter last week in a 24-20 loss at Auburn. Bell has a better percentage on field goals beyond 40 yards (5 of 8) in his college career. He was recruited to MSU from Warren Central High School in Vicksburg for the strength of his leg. 


5. Will the MSU offensive line have back-to-back solid performances? 


MSU's front provided rushing lanes for Prescott to run for 133 yards at Auburn. The total was tied for the sixth most in an SEC game by an individual under Mullen. With questions surrounding the MSU offense, the Bulldogs had 415 yards of total offense, surpassing the 333-yard mark for the 13th time in the last 16 games. 




Players to Watch 




Senior RB LaDarius Perkins 


The senior tailback returned from an ankle injury at Auburn and finished with just 50 all-purpose yards, including just 36 rushing yards. He is averaging 5.2 yards per carry and may be critical to helping MSU establish a ground game early Saturday. 


Junior CB Taveze Calhoun 


Calhoun has been wearing a boot on his right foot this week. His status is in jeopardy to play against Troy. With the depth at cornerback thin, Calhoun's absence could push Justin Cox to cornerback. 






Senior QB Corey Robinson 


Robinson has thrown for more than 300 yards in a game 20 times. His 75.5-percent completion percentage is the fifth best in the country, and second best among quarterbacks with at least 100 attempts. 


Sophomore DE Tyler Roberts 


Roberts leads the defense with three and a half sacks. Troy already has nine sacks this season after recording 13 last season. Troy defensive coordinator Wayne Bolt will need the 227-pounder from Hoover, Ala., to get into the backfield to force MSU into third-down conversions. 




Numbers of the game 



Number of passes of 50 yards or longer this season by Troy, which is leads the NCAA. 




Number of all-purpose yards senior LaDarius Perkins needs for 3,615 for his career, the fifth-most in school history. 




Mississippi State hasn't started with a 1-3 record since 2008.



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