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    Football Preview: Memphis at Mississippi State

    MEMPHIS at MISS. STATE
    6 p.m. CT
    Starkville, Miss.
    Davis Wade Stadium at Scott Field (55,082)
    Overall: 0-0
    LIVE TV: ESPNU
    [Clay Matvick, play-by-play; Herm Edwards, analyst; Elizabeth Moreau, sidelines]
    Overall: 0-0
    SEC: 0-0



    THE COACHES

    Larry Porter is in his first season at Memphis and overall. The Tigers' offensive coordinator is Eric Price and the defensive coordinator is Jay Hopson.

    Dan Mullen is in his second season at MSU and overall with a record of 5-7 (.417). Les Koenning serves as the offensive coordinator and the co-defensive coordinators are Manny Diaz and Chris Wilson.

    WHAT TO LOOK FOR WHEN MEMPHIS HAS THE BALL

    Greg Ray saw action in four games last season at tailback, while Lance Smith, who transferred from Wisconsin, is Memphis' top returning rusher with 149 yards and one TD on 46 carries in eight games in 2009. Memphis returns their entire starting offensive line from 2009. Marcus Rucker and Cam Baker are the leading returnees from last season as Rucker logged 241 yards and two TDs and Baker tallied 149 yards on 20 catches.

    An All-SEC performer a year ago, Pernell McPhee led the team with 12.0 tackles for loss and 5.0 quarterback sacks. Chris White recorded 75 tackles a year ago and could better that number from his new position in the middle. Joining White as a familiar face in the middle of the defense will be senior K.J. Wright. Wright finished with 82 tackles and 6.5 tackles for loss in 2010. Corey Broomfield tied for the SEC lead with six interceptions last year, and Charles Mitchell and Johnthan Banks each picked off four.

    WHAT TO LOOK FOR WHEN MISSISSIPPI STATE HAS THE BALL

    The linebacker unit returns several key players from last season, including senior Jamon Hughes, who led the Tiger defense with 87 tackles. Hughes is a transfer from Mississippi State, where he was the fourth-leading tackler on the Bulldogs 2007 Liberty Bowl Champion squad. Marcus Ball and Bryan White led the secondary in interceptions last season with two each, while D.A. Griffin was second on the team with six pass breakups. Frank Trotter is the leading returning on the defensive line, posting 36 tackles, including 3.5 TFLs.

    Last season the Bulldogs led the SEC in rushing yards per game, averaging an astounding 228 yards per game on the ground. The offense also increased scoring by more than 10 points per game from the year prior and total offensive yards increased by nearly 100 per contest. Far and away the most experienced position on the field for the Bulldogs, the offensive line will look to pave the way for the 2010 team. Junior Robert Elliott will likely get the first chance to replace Anthony Dixon at tailback. The team's leading receiver with 32 catches a year ago as a true freshman, Chad Bumphis led the squad with four touchdown receptions as well. Expect to see both Chris Relf and redshirt freshman Tyler Russell under center for the Bulldogs.

    SPECIAL TEAMS

    A huge void must be filled in replacing Matt Reagan, who handed all kicking duties for UM and finished his career as one of the best kickers in school history. Memphis averages just three yards per punt return in 2009. Three players return who handled kickoff return duties, including Marcus Hightower, Curtis Johnson and Lance Smith. All averaged over 20 yards per return, with Hightower leading the way with 535 yards on 24 returns.

    Senior Sean Brauchle began the year as the kicker, but a midyear injury allowed junior Derek DePasquale to step in and do an admirable job. Brauchle made six consecutive field goals in the first half of the season, and DePasquale hit 10-of-12 down the stretch. Senior Heath Hutchins handled every punt a year ago and forced 22 to be fair caught. He also placed 11 inside the opponent's 20 yard line. Leon Berry became the first Mississippi State player to record 1,000 yards in kickoff returns in a single season a year ago.

    SERIES/GAME NOTES
    Record: MSU, 31-11

    Last season in Starkville saw the Bulldogs improve in virtually all areas on the field and topple attendance records in the stands as MSU navigated its way through the nation's toughest schedule. This season, they play the last four national champions, all on the road. Former SEC Coach of the Year and Alabama head coach Mike DuBose is the defensive line coach for Memphis.