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Tag:Mississippi State
Posted on: January 12, 2012 1:50 pm
 

MSU's 'strategically' placed billboard in Oxford

Posted by Chip Patterson

Since his arrival in Starkville, Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen has made a point to throw some gas on the fire in the Ole Miss rivalry. At this time last year, Mullen made headlines for a massive billboard campaign that welcomed visitors to "Our State." This year, the billboard efforts to fuel the in-state rivalry are less aggressive and more calculated.



(Billboard image via Clarion-Ledger)

The billboard, which features Mississippi State players holding the Egg Bowl trophy after the Bulldogs 31-3 win over Ole Miss on Nov. 26, is featured in five different locations across the state of Mississippi. The billboards went up Jan. 1 and are scheduled to come down Feb. 1; which happens to be National Signing Day.

One of those five billboards is located in Oxford, on Jackson Avenue near Ole Miss campus. A Mississippi State athletic department spokesperson acknowledged the advertisement was "strategically placed" in a response to the Clarion-Ledger.



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Posted on: January 12, 2012 1:29 am
Edited on: February 3, 2012 12:22 pm
 

1-to-35: Ranking the 2011 bowl games



Posted by Jerry Hinnen


Each December, there's plenty of rankings out there as to how good each bowl should be. But if that's the "before," what about the "after"? Here's the Eye on CFB's (highly subjective) ranking of all 35 bowls from the 2011-2012 college football postseason, best game to worst.

1. Rose. Unlike certain other bowls we could name (who happen to rhyme with "Schmalamo"), the Rose's outburst of offense came despite the presence of legitimate championship-level defenses--making the punch and counter-punch between Russell Wilson and Montee Ball on one side and LaMichael James and De'Anthony Thomas on the other like haymakers in a heavyweight prizefight. Add in college football's greatest venue, a down-to-the-wire ending, and even the aesthetic battle between the Badgers' understated uniforms and the Ducks' glitter factory helmets, and you've got the best bowl-watching experience of the year.

2. Fiesta. Andrew Luck vs. Justin Blackmon at the top of their powers -- at the top of the powers of anyone at their positions in college football -- would be worth a top-five placement alone. Luck vs. Blackmon and 79 points and overtime drama? That's worth top-two.

3. Alamo Bowl. To call the defenses in this game abominably porous would be an insult to pores (and abominations). But the Alamo is a random weeknight bowl game--just as no one wants to watch an Oscar-baiting 17th-century literary adaptation on their Guys' Night Out, so no one tuned into the Alamo for rugged defense and awesome punting. Thankfully, what Baylor and Washington gave us was the college football equivalent of four hours of Jason Statham shooting explosions.

4. Outback. Come for Kirk Cousins leading the most unlikely comeback this side of the whooping crane, stay for Mark Richt nominating himself for the (dis)honor of "World's Fraidiest-Cat Football Coach." Oh, and triple overtime.

5. New Orleans. We'd ask if you could remember this thriller between Louisiana-Lafayette and San Diego State from the bowl season's opening night, but we don't think anyone who watched could forget Ragin' Cajun kicker Brett Baer deliriously celebrating his last-second game-winner if they tried.

6. Military. One word: #MACtion. And two numbers: 42-41. And, all right, eight more words to help do this game justice: last-minute do-or-die failed fake extra point holder-kicker option.

7. Sun. We're suckers for any game featuring the triple-option (see the Air Force game ranked one spot above), and Utah's 4th-and-14 touchdown conversion to send the game into OT was one of the more dramatic single plays of the entire bowl season. That 3-0 anti-classic between Pitt and Oregon State was a particularly distant memory in El Paso this year.

8. Belk. A matchup of Utterly Average ACC team vs. Utterly Average Big East team -- in a bowl sponsored by a department store that thinks Macy's is way too wild and edgy -- should have been one of the snoozers of the year. Instead, Mike Glennon caught fire, Louisville mounted a spirited comeback, and this wound up one of the better games of the postseason.

9. Little Caesars. The quality of play in this game at times was like ... well, have you ever actually eaten the pizza of the sponsor? But Western Michigan receiver Jordan White put on a spectacular show (13 catches, 249 yards), the teams combined for 69 points, and the Boilers special teams pulled off two onsides kicks and a kick return for TD. Tasty!

10. Famous Idaho Potato. OK, OK: we're giving this game (which was less-than-must-see-viewing for much of the first 55 minutes) a slight bonus for its killer logo. But we're giving it a much bigger bonus for the pulse-pounding final drive from quarterback Tyler Tettleton and the Bobcats for the first bowl win in program history.

11. Armed Forces. If you're going to be a sorta-dull game between two sorta-unmemorable teams, better come up with a memorable play and/or a big finish. Riley Nelson's game-winning fake spike touchdown to become college football's answer to Dan Marino just about did the trick.

12. Sugar. Another for the "ugly game, fascinating ending" file, but this was Michigan doing their damnedest to be Michigan again and Virginia Tech doing their damnedest to avoid the rabbit's feet and horseshoes and four-leaf clovers falling out of the Wolverines' pockets -- Danny Coale most especially -- and it was in New Orleans. You didn't quit watching, did you?

13. Poinsettia. Not a classic, but three-and-a-half back-and-forth hours with a feisty Louisiana Tech team and an underrated TCU squad most definitely qualified as "serviceable." Think of this year's Poinsettia as the quality burger-and-fries plate from the local joint down the street--not mind-blowing, but spend a few weeks in Peru, where they don't have burgers or college football, and you'll crave a Poinsettia Bowl so badly you could scream.

14. Orange. In the space of about an hour, Dana Holgorsen's evisceration of Clemson went from thrilling to discomfiting to boring to morbidly fascinating to -- once we all realized the Mountaineers weren't going to hit triple digits -- back to boring again. Not every game that hits 100 points is one for the DVD vaults, as it turns out.

15. Liberty. Give me Cincinnati defeating Vanderbilt in surprisingly convincing, mildly entertaining fashion or give me death! (Actually, we've got that first thing already, so no need to worry about providing the second, thanks.)

16. Chick-Fil-A. For 2.5 quarters, this was a delightful shootout with all the requisite trickery you'd hope for from a game involving Gus Malzahn. Then Virginia remembered that it was not only Virginia, but proud ACC member Virginia, and the fun was over.

17. Meineke Car Care. Seriously, Texas A&M, we didn't tune in to see you only flirt with blowing a huge lead against a team that hasn't won a bowl game since approximately the Grover Cleveland administration.

18. Capital One. This game featured an abundance of must-watch plays -- Alshon Jeffery catching a  bomb, Alshon Jeffery hauling in a half-ending Hail Mary, Alshon Jeffery getting ejected for fighting -- but aside from, well, Alshon Jeffery, there wasn't much to it.

19. Cotton Bowl. The 15 seconds of Joe Adams' punt return, the 10 seconds of Jarius Wright's touchdown, and the 5 minutes when it looked like Kansas State might mount yet another smashing comeback were riveting stuff. The other 54:35? Not so much.

20. BCS National Championship. A great game, if you're the sort of fan who enjoys watching nature shows where a pride of lions tear a wildebeest to pieces because the wildebeest can't complete a downfield pass to save its life.

21. TicketCity. If he'd stuggled, he'd have been called a fraud; because he ripped Penn State's D into tiny shreds, no one paid attention. Which is why we're working on a sitcom pilot right now called Case Keenum Can't Win.

22. Gator. When one team's special teams scores just one fewer touchdown than the two offenses combined (as Florida's did), it's safe to say you're not watching a classic.

23. GoDaddy.com. Thanks to a 31-0 run from Northern Illinois, what was expected to be a nailbiting shootout ended up the biggest disappointment since that "unrated web content" we checked out.

24. Champs Sports. It wasn't pretty, but at least the Seminoles and Irish were trying their best ... to make us wish they'd just aired a repeat of the 1993 meeting instead.

25. Las Vegas. College football produces a lot of emotions, but from the neutral perspective, it's rare that one of them is outright legitimate anger. Seeing Kellen Moore forced to end his career slumming it against an Arizona State team that checked out in early November sure turned the trick, though.

26. Independence. The Tar Heels came out so flat, and were finished off so quickly, that we're pretty sure the only lovely parting gift they walked away with was "Independence Bowl: the Board Game."

27. Music City. Mississippi State turned the ball over four times, and Wake Forest averaged 2.9 yards per-play. If Hank Williams or some other old-time country artist had come to Nashville to write a sad song about a sad bowl game, this is the game they'd use for inspiration.

28. Insight. Sadly, the only "insight" we got from this game was that Vegas oddsmakers -- who had the Sooners installed as the biggest favorite of the entire bowl season -- know what they're talking about. And who didn't know that already?

29. Holiday. It wasn't that long ago when Jeff Tedford's Cal and Mack Brown's Texas squaring off would have been appointment television. This game was, too, though in the sense that it was the sort of game you made an appointment somewhere else to avoid viewing.

30. Hawaii. Nevada and Southern Mississippi were collectively as sharp as your average butter knife, but let's see you spend a week chilling in Hawaii and then play a quality football game. The best players the NFL has to offer try it every single year and haven't succeeded yet.

31. Pinstripe. The only thing we remember from this game was our wish to travel back to, say, 1998, and explain to a random college football fan that in 2011, Rutgers would win a bowl game in Yankee Stadium that would give them the nation's longest postseason winning streak. (We're still not sure it's actually happening.)

32. Beef 'O' Brady's. Newton's Second Law of Bowl Aesthetics: Whensoever a Game Produces Fewer Offensive Touchdowns Than the Game Has Apostrophes in its Title, That Game Shall Be, Verily, Entirely Terrible.

33. New Mexico. We'd waited so long to be able to sit down and watch a college bowl game, and by halftime we were sort of wishing we'd gotten to wait a little bit longer.

34. BBVA Compass. For two straight years, Pitt has been forced to play in Legion Field on a January weekday afternoon in front of no one under an interim coach against a nondescript opponent. Vs. SMU the Panthers looked like they'd much rather be off somewhere doing something much more fun, like peeling potatoes with their teeth--and we don't blame them a bit.

35. Kraft Fight Hunger. Comedian Patton Oswalt once called a certain famous KFC product a "failure pile in a sadness bowl." Capitalize that B, and we can't think of a better way to describe 2011 Illinois "battling" 2011 UCLA.

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Posted on: January 6, 2012 12:27 am
 

Bill O'Brien may stay with Pats past Signing Day

Posted by Adam Jacobi

Penn State is expected to announce the hiring of New England Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien on Saturday, according to CBSSports.com NFL reporter Mike Freeman. That brings a merciful end to the Penn State coaching search, as the PSU job was the last to be filled in all of the FBS.

The thing is, however, if reports are true, O'Brien won't be on Penn State's campus immediately -- and the wait could potentially extend past a very important deadline. According to Boston Herald Patriots beat reporter Ian Rapoport, O'Brien will remain the Patriots' offensive coordinator throughout the playoffs. And while the NFL playoffs start this weekend, the Patriots' season won't be ending so soon. New England is the top seed in the AFC, meaning the Patriots have a bye week this week, and are the favorite to make it to Super Bowl XLVI.

Penn State fans should be rooting for an early upset for the Pats, though, because if the Patriots do make it to the Super Bowl, O'Brien's going to be a member of that staff until February 5. That date is important, because Signing Day -- the first day that college football recruits can sign letters of intent with their preferred school -- is the preceding Tuesday, February 1. Now, top seeds are hardly locks to make the Super Bowl in today's NFL, but the Patriots under Bill Belichick have one of the best track records in the playoffs of any NFL franchise over the last decade or so.

O'Brien is expected to do some recruiting while he's still with New England, and he wouldn't be the first coach to pull double-duty like this; Rapoport also noted on his feed that Charlie Weis did so at New England as he prepared to take over Notre Dame, and Sylvester Croom was similarly stretched between Green Bay and Mississippi State when he was first hired. Unfortunately, as Rapoport also noted, such double duty hampered the coaches' first recruiting classes considerably, and it's also worth noting that both coaches were fired after five seasons -- right when that first recruiting class would have been full of redshirt seniors.

It would then behoove Penn State to retain Tom Bradley (the defensive coordinator-turned-interim coach who has led the team since the Penn State Board of Trustees fired longtime coach Joe Paterno on November 9 in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal) and offer him his old position as defensive coordinator, much in the same way that Ohio State has honored interim head coach Luke Fickell since the hiring of Urban Meyer. That way, Bradley can also focus his efforts on recruiting and salvage a Penn State class that by Big Ten standards is mediocre, and by Penn State standards is subpar.

It does not portend well for Bradley's future with Penn State, however, that the only word from him was that he had not been told of any hiring plans by the school as of Thursday night, according to Blue White Illustrated. If Bradley is not motivated to remain committed to the recruiting trail for Penn State while O'Brien tries to balance recruiting and coaching the Patriots for however long New England's season lasts, Penn State's recruiting class will undoubtedly suffer, and that's another hurdle that this suddenly flailing program does not need to have added to the race ahead.

For more breaking news on Penn State, follow the team's RapidReports by Jim Rodenbush.

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Posted on: January 5, 2012 4:31 pm
 

Next year's BCS title odds released in Vegas

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

The 2012 BCS national championship game is still four days away, which means it's entirely too early to start discussing the 2013 BCS national championship game, right?

Nonsense--particularly if you're the sort of college football fan who's paying attention to what Las Vegas is already saying about that 2013 championship. Blog Kegs n' Eggs has compiled the early national title odds released this week by the Caesars Palace sportsbook, and the favorite won't surprise anyone who's taken a look at their defensive depth chartLSU checks in at the top of the list at 3/1.

The Bayou Bengals are followed by USC, at 6/1 following the return of Matt Barkley. Alabama (7/1), Oregon (9/1), and Arkansas (12/1) round out the book's "top 5."

Here's the rest of the contenders as sorted by conference, with some commentary to follow:

ACC

Florida State: 18/1
Virginia Tech: 18/1
Clemson: 28/1
Miami: 90/1
North Carolina: 100/1
Virginia: 100/1
Georgia Tech: 100/1

BIG 12

Oklahoma: 18/1
Kansas State: 25/1
Texas: 30/1
Oklahoma State: 40/1
TCU: 50/1
Baylor: 75/1

BIG TEN

Michigan: 18/1
Nebraska: 30/1
Wisconsin: 40/1
Michigan State: 40/1
Penn State: 100/1
Iowa: 125/1

BIG EAST (WE THINK)

West Virginia: 50/1
Cincinnati: 75/1
Louisville: 100/1

PAC-12

USC: 6/1
Oregon: 9/1
Washington: 50/1
Stanford: 60/1
Arizona State: 75/1
Utah: 100/1
Washington State: 100/1
Cal: 100/1

SEC

LSU: 3/1
Alabama: 7/1
Arkansas: 12/1
Georgia: 15/1
South Carolina: 28/1
Auburn: 30/1
Florida: 35/1
Texas A&M: 60/1
Mississippi State: 75/1
Missouri: 75/1
Vanderbilt: 100/1

INDEPENDENT/NON-BCS

Notre Dame: 22/1
Boise State: 50/1
BYU: 100/1

The field is listed at 50/1. Comments:

-- Not that it's a surprise given that it's won five (and in four days, six) straight BCS titles, but still interesting to see the level of love for the SEC: four of the top six teams, half the 14-team conference at 35/1 or better, and only three teams (Ole Miss, Kentucky and Tennessee) are consigned to the field. (Incidentally, when was the last time Vegas offered national championship odds on Vanderbilt but not Tennessee? We're going on a limb to say "never.")

-- Is Michigan really going to enter 2012 as the Big Ten favorite -- Denard Robinson will be back, but there's major losses on both lines -- or is their status here just a result of the large numbers of Wolverine fans willing to bet on their favorite team? We're guessing the latter; of all the teams listed at 20/1 or better, they're the team we'd give the longest shot.

-- Other teams that might be overvalued: Alabama, who lose major chunks of their defense and offensive line; Notre Dame, because their schedule isn't getting any easier; and even at 75/1, Arizona State, because c'mon.

-- On the other hand, who might be undervalued? West Virginia should be even more explosive in year 2 of the Dana Holgorsen era, and the defense is young; TCU, who'll have the schedule strength to break into the BCS title game if they go undefeated again; and Virginia Tech, still with Logan Thomas at the controls and a cushy ACC slate. 

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Posted on: January 3, 2012 12:18 pm
Edited on: January 3, 2012 1:54 pm
 

Mississippi State's Cox to enter NFL Draft

Posted by Tom Fornelli

Mississippi State will be missing one of the anchors of its defense heading into the 2012 season, as junior defensive tackle Fletcher Cox announced that he was declaring for the NFL Draft on Tuesday.

“This is a chance for me to do what I’ve always dreamed of, play in the NFL,” Cox said in a release. “I appreciate everything Mississippi State has done for me to help me get to this point. The coaches, fans, staff and everyone there have been amazing during my three years in Starkville.” 

Cox finished the season with 56 tackles for the Bulldogs, including 14 1/2 for loss and 5 sacks. He was also named first-team All-SEC by the AP. In his career Cox played 36 games for Mississippi State, starting 27. He also proved to be quite adept at blocking kicks during his time in Starkville, blocking 5 kicks, including a field goal in Mississippi State's 23-17 win over Wake Forest in the Music City Bowl.

Cox is currently ranked third amongst defensive tackles on CBSSports.com's draft board, behind Penn State's Devon Still and North Carolina's Quinton Coples. He's also projected to be a late-first round pick by both Rob Rang and Dane Brugler of CBSSports.com.

Get caught up on the early-entry announcements HERE, and all the latest rankings, mock drafts, and breaking news check out the NFL Draft Home 
Posted on: December 31, 2011 11:14 pm
 

QUICK HITS: Auburn 43, Virginia 24

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

 

AUBURN WON: A Tiger offense that had been in second gear since September and was missing leading rusher Michael Dyer suddenly roared to life in Gus Malzahn's final game at the helm, scoring 43 points and racking up 454 yards, both season highs allowed (or are they lows?) for the Cavalier defense. But the story of the game was Auburn's dominance on special teams, where the Tigers blocked not one but two Virginia punts (leading to nine points), foiled a fake Cavalier field goal, successfully executed a surprise onsides kick and set up a field goal with a 62-yard Quan Bray kick return. The Tiger offense was the best it had been since Week 2 vs. Mississippi State, if not all season--but it also had the benefit of a lot of help.

WHY AUBURN WON: Those special teams played the largest role, but if the same Tiger offense that had shown up over the last half of the season had shown up in Atlanta, those special teams wouldn't have mattered for much. The difference was an unusual source for a spark: demoted backup quarterback Barrett Trotter, benched at midseason for Clint Moseley and not even considered a part of the team's bowl preparations with freshman Kiehl Frazier being groomed for a larger role. But Moseley left the game after just one series with an ankle injury, and Trotter stepped into hit 11 of his 17 passes for 175 yards and 1 touchdown.

Sure, the total yardage number isn't all that eye-popping. But Trotter only needed to make a couple of throws downfield -- the prettiest a 50-yard in-stride bomb to Emory Blake to set up a second-quarter touchdown -- to open up the Auburn screen and running games that had been bottled up since the early stages of the season, thanks to the lack of deep accuracy from the Tiger QBs (Trotter included). With everything in the playbook at his arsenal (including the read options Cam Newton used to great effect last season, thanks to Frazier's repeated successful cameos), Malzahn was unable to unleash the kind of offensive barrage that's made his name as a coach. 

Virginia's offense had its moments -- the Cavaliers had 435 yards of their own -- but with the Tigers clicking the way they were and the UVa special teams providing less than no help, they missed far too many opportunities to keep up.

WHEN AUBURN WON: Tiger placekicker Cody Parkey had a nice night, depositing five of his eight kickoffs in the end zone for touchbacks, perfectly executing the onsides, and hitting 3-of-4 field goals. The last of those put Auburn up 43-24 with just over 8 minutes to play, and effectively ended the game.

WHAT AUBURN WON: Their fifth straight bowl game -- good for a share of the nation's longest bowl streak, tying Rutgers and Mississippi State -- and an eighth game for third time in Gene Chizik's three-year tenure. Given Auburn's schedule and the massive roster attrition following last year's run the national title, the Tigers can't feel disappointed about their 2011 effort.

WHAT VIRGINIA LOST: A chance at a first bowl victory since 2005, but given where the program was when Mike London arrived, the Cavs will happily take 8-5 and a Chick-Fil-A bowl appearance, we think.

FINAL GRADE: Though the outcome left the realm of doubt sometime during the third quarter, the ample offensive fireworks, aggressive coaching from both sidelines, and big plays made the game a breezy, enjoyable watch all the same. It wasn't the Alamo Bowl, but what is? B.

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Posted on: December 30, 2011 10:39 pm
 

QUICK HITS: Miss. St. 23, Wake Forest 17

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

MISSISSIPPI STATE WON: It's not easy to lose the turnover battle 4-0 and still win a bowl game, but that's just how much better the Bulldogs were in seeing off Wake Forest at the Music City Bowl. The Bulldogs outgained the Demon Deacons 380-288, Vick Ballard ran wild with 180 yards on just 14 carries (12.9 per-attempt) and two touchdowns, and Chris Relf did just enough in the Bulldogs' aerial game -- 12-of-19 for 129 yards and a touchdown -- to keep the Deacon defenders honest. If not for Relf's two interceptions and two first-half fumbles, this game could have been put to bed much, much sooner it was.

WHY MISSISSIPPI STATE WON: Because -- not that this was unexpected -- Tanner Price and the Wake Forest passing game never got going. Always a lackluster rushing team, the Demon Deacons had to get Price hot to move the ball against the Bulldogs. But with the exception of one clinical drive to open the second half, Price barely ever got lukewarm; he finished the night 24-of-46 for all of 214 yards, a thoroughly mediocre 4.7 yards per attempt. Though Price never threw an interception, he never threw a touchdown, either, and finished the game with three ugly incompletions on Wake's final drive.

But it wasn't all Price's fault. For one thing, he was under constant pressure -- defensive tackle Fletcher Cox was everywhere, particularly in the first half -- and was rarely able to throw in rhythm. We said before the game that star Deacon wide receiver Chris Givens would have to win his matchup against excellent Bulldog cover corner Johnthan Banks for the Wake offense to click, and it's fair to say that didn't happen; Givens finished with nine receptions, but for only 54 yards without a touchdown. The results were predictable--including this defeat, Wake finished the season 0-5 in games in which Givens finished with fewer than 80 yards.

WHEN MISSISSIPPI STATE WON: For all of the Bulldogs' statistical dominance and control of the game past the first quarter, the game wasn't ultimately decided until Price's final incompletion on 4th-and-7 gave the ball back to State with under 90 seconds to play. 

WHAT MISSISSIPPI STATE WON: A winning season, still far from a certainty in Starkville, but more importantly it keeps alive one of the nation's more improbable postseason winning streaks; the Bulldogs have now won five straight bowl games dating back to their victory in the 1999 Peach Bowl, tying Rutgers for the FBS's longest streak.

WHAT WAKE FOREST LOST: Their own shot at a winning record -- the Deacons finish 6-7 -- but simply getting to a bowl game was a major accomplishment for a team without a whole lot of raw talent or offensive firepower.

FINAL GRADE: Once State went up 16-7 in the second quarter, the entire game seemed to consist of the Bulldogs trying to run out the clock, Wake desperately trying to make up ground, and neither team succeeding at either. Though the outcome technically remained in doubt until the final minutes, the game never quite became legitimately "exciting." (Vick Ballard's bolting up the middle for long touchdowns excepted.) C-.

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Posted on: December 29, 2011 2:47 pm
 

Music City Bowl Key Matchup

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

A look at the key matchup that could decide the Music City Bowl. 



Mississippi State CB Johnthan Banks vs. Wake Forest WR Chris Givens.

As we pointed out in our Keys to the Game for the Music City Bowl, the Demon Deacons don't have much to hang their hat on from a statistical perspective; they rank in the bottom half of the FBS in scoring, rush and total offense and as well as rush, pass, total and scoring defense. They aren't even particularly good on special teams, where Phil Steele's ratings place them 71st despite a 16-of-20 performance from placekicker Jimmy Newman.

But there is one thing Wake does well, and at times has done spectacularly: get the ball from quarterback Tanner Price to wide receiver Chris Givens. The two have hooked up 74 times this season for 1,276 yards and 9 touchdowns, earning the 6'0" junior from Texas first-team All-ACC honors. The most remarkable thing about Givens' 2011 performance was its consistency; he caught at least four passes in all 12 games (though never more than eight) and hauled in at least one touchdown in eight (though never more than two). As Givens' overall production went, though, so went the Deacons. In the eight games in which he finished with 80 receiving yards or more, Wake went 6-2; in the four in which he didn't (all of which came in the final five games of the season), they went 0-4.

Here's the bad news for Givens, and the Deacons: much like season finale opponent Vanderbilt and Casey Hayward -- who held Givens to four quiet receptions for 69 yards and no TDs -- Mississippi State has a lockdown corner to throw at Wake's best (and arguably only) offensive weapon. Junior Johnthan Banks isn't a household name and didn't even make the coaches' first- or second-team All-SEC thanks to the glut of premier corners in the conference, but Banks was the No. 1 reason why State finished 23rd nationally in pass defense and 11th in opponent's yards-per-pass attempt. Both rugged and quick, Banks has the skills to keep Givens every bit as quiet as the Commodores did.

But that doesn't mean he'll actually do it, not when Givens has the kind of talent he does and a veteran quarterback in Price who knows how to get him the ball. If Givens can't get the better of Banks, though, it shapes up as a difficult evening for the Deacons.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com