The Mississippi State Bulldogs have a stiff test to begin the 2013 season, as they face the Oklahoma State Cowboys.
Facing the No. 13-ranked team in ESPN's preseason poll is challenging enough, but facing it in Reliant Stadium is a little tougher. Cowboys fans will undoubtedly travel to Houston to make this neutral-site game feel more like a home game for the Cowboys.
Without question, that plays a major role in Oklahoma State being heavily favored coming in. Check out the spread and other vital information below.
Injuries (via USA Today)
No injuries to report.
OL Devin Davis - Out for Season - Knee
Key Storylines to Watch
Cowboys' Offense and QB Situation
Oklahoma State will almost certainly have one of the top offenses in college football again in 2013. Then again, what's new? The Cowboys have ranked in the top three in points per game over the last three seasons.
The change at offensive coordinator from Todd Monken to Mike Yurcich should be an easy transition. Yurcich won't have any more of an effect on the offense than Monken did. The Cowboys attack is primarily about head coach Mike Gundy's vision.
This approach has worked so far, so how can we criticize it?
Clint Chelf and J.W. Walsh have both shown the propensity to lead the team at quarterback. Their numbers were nearly identical last year:
Though the numbers were similar, Chelf is the senior and the natural order of things would suggest he's the man. Because of the experience Walsh gained as a freshman, though, don't be surprised to see him get a chance if Chelf struggles.
Can a Bulldog Slow Down a Cowboy?
The Bulldogs defense is athletic in spots, but it wasn't exactly a stellar group in 2012. In its last six games, Mississippi State allowed 33.6 points per game.
During that stretch, it faced four ranked teams. Oklahoma State represents a similar level of competition.
Having lost standout defensive back Johnthan Banks to the NFL, there is no reason to believe the Bulldogs will be able to slow the Cowboys down.
Possible Shootout on the Horizon
Bulldogs quarterback Tyler Russell has made only 17 starts in his career, but he's already made his mark as a signal-caller in the school's modest history at the position.
He's the Bulldogs' all-time leader in passing efficiency. However, with the team's most explosive weapon from 2012—Chad Bumphis—in the NFL, the Bulldogs may have some issues out-gunning the Cowboys.
The remaining receivers are young and their inexperience could ultimately be the difference. There is room for inroads, though. The Cowboys defense isn't going to be stellar. In 2012, it gave up 307 yards per game on defense.
Without any major talent upgrades in the secondary or along the defensive line, it should still be a group the Bulldogs can have some success against.
Expect the Cowboys to start the season off with a bang. They should put up a ton of points en route to a 40-24 victory that pleases everyone that bet they would cover.
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