Published October 11, 2012
No. 19 Mississippi State (5-0, 2-0) vs. Tennessee (3-2, 0-2), 9 p.m. (ESPN2)
Line: Mississippi State by 2 ½.
Series Record: Tennessee leads 28-15-1.
WHAT'S AT STAKE:
Mississippi State is working to continue its best start since 1999 and is just one of 15 teams — if you include transitioning UTSA — in the Football Bowl Subdivision that remains unbeaten. Tennessee is playing its third straight nationally ranked opponent in conference play. The Volunteers have won six straight against the Bulldogs dating back to 1994.
Tennessee QB Tyler Bray against the Mississippi State secondary. The 6-foot-6 Bray is among the nation's premier pocket passers, completing 61.1 percent of his throws for 14 touchdowns, six interceptions and more than 316 yards per game. The Bulldogs' secondary includes four seasoned starters — including star CB Jonathan Banks — who have combined for 37 career interceptions, including eight returned for touchdowns.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Tennessee: WR Justin Hunter. The 6-foot-4, 200-pound junior is a favorite of NFL scouts and has been Bray's favorite target this season. He's caught 33 passes for 456 yards and four touchdowns.
Mississippi State: QB Tyler Russell. He's the other Tyler in this matchup, but is quietly having a very productive season. The 6-foot-4, 220-pound junior has shown a knack for making good decisions in his first season as the full-time starter, throwing 10 touchdown passes and just one interception.
FACTS & FIGURES
The 8 p.m. CT kickoff time is the latest game Mississippi State has played since 2003 and the latest for Tennessee since 2002. ... Mississippi State has a seven-game winning streak dating back to last season. That ranks fifth in the nation. ... The Bulldogs have scored at least 25 points in their first five games for the first time in the 113-year history of the football program. ... Mississippi State's fourth-year coach Dan Mullen has a 7-3 record against opponents from the SEC Eastern Division. ... The Bulldogs rank second nationally with a plus-11 turnover margin. ... Tennessee has won the last six games in the series against Mississippi State by an average of 24.5 points. ... Tennessee coach Derek Dooley will lead the team from the press box after having surgery to repair his fractured right hip on Tuesday. ... Tennessee ranks second in the SEC and 17th nationally in total offense, averaging more than 506 yards per game. ... The Volunteers are in the middle of a brutal part of their schedule that will almost certainly feature games against four ranked teams. Tennessee lost to Georgia two weeks ago, faces Mississippi State on Saturday and then has games against Alabama and South Carolina.