This week’s game: Tennessee (3-2, 0-2 SEC) at No. 19 MSU (5-0, 2-0), 8 p.m., ESPN2 (Joe Tessitore, Matt Millen and Allison Williams)
There’s a question that I’m sure has been bothering many of you: Why hasn’t MSU’s offense been more explosive? And a question related to that: How has MSU not put up more points?
In today’s Journal, I examine those issues. The MSU offense was expected to take a big step forward this season, and in some ways it has, most notably in the passing department. That’s led to a more balanced attack. That’s all good and well, but the total production has not added up.
As mentioned in the story, MSU ranks 65th in the country in plays of 20 or more yards, with 24. That’s certainly better than last season, when State ranked 95th. But once you get to plays of 30 yards and beyond, MSU is not doing significantly better than last year. In 2011, it averaged 1.62 plays of 30-plus yards per game; this year the average is 1.8. Last year, plays of 40-plus occurred at a clip of 0.92 per game; this fall it’s 1.00.
And last season was not a great year for big plays for MSU, so the small increase is a bit concerning. Dan Mullen talked about this in the context of the Kentucky game, which MSU won 27-14. The Bulldogs scored only seven points after halftime.
“Well, last week we’d like to have had some more points on the board,” Mullen said. “I thought we moved the ball pretty well. We missed some opportunities to score. Obviously we finished the game down there in the red zone. But I saw two other possessions I really think we should have had touchdowns. I think (Chad Bumphis) dropped a big pass down the middle of the field that would have been a big play. So there is some big-play potential for us.”
Can a cure be found this weekend? Perhaps so, because Tennessee’s defense has given up a ton of big plays: 15 of 30-plus, eight of 40-plus, six of 50-plus, five of 60-plus and five of 70-plus. Those last two are tied for last in the country, and the 50-plus plays are tied for 114th.
• Also in today’s Journal is my press conference notebook, featuring Benardrick McKinney, Nick Griffin and Malcolm Johnson.
• From the Tennessee side, some links: Derek Dooley says MSU’s defensive backs are “NFL guys.” … I believe someone else columnized about this last week, but yes, the MSU game is a critical one for Dooley. … The Vols are all energized and whatnot after a weekend off.