The School: Mississippi State University
Record: 9-1 (5-1 SEC). 7-6 in 2013.
Ranking: Mississippi State is ranked fourth in both the AP and Coaches' Polls. They are ranked fourth in the Real Time RPI (nearly 100 spots in front of Vandy, who is 102nd this week) and are ranked seventh in Warren Nolan's rankings (Vanderbilt is 113th).
Mascot: Bully the Bulldog. Real original, Mississippi State. Way to pick a nickname straight out of Woodland Critter Christmas. On the other hand, kudos to MSU for choosing a mascot that accurately represents its fan base physically:
You can somehow hear the heavy breathing taking place in this picture.
Location: Starksville, MS. You know what's a fun thing to do when you're in Starksville? Turning around and getting the hell out of Starksville.
Conference: The SEC. You knew this.
All-Time vs. Vanderbilt: 12-7-2
In the past 10 years vs. Vanderbilt: 1-2. Vandy had a chance to beat some pretty lackluster Bulldog teams and whiffed in their last two matchups. The 2008 defeat - which came at a time when MSU was 0-4 against I-A opponents and had already lost to Auburn 3-2 - nearly kept Bobby Johnson from going to a bowl game.
The Last Time We Saw These Guys: Mississippi State beat Vandy in a nigh-unwatchable 2009 game, 15-3. Larry Smith led both teams in passing despite a 12-32 performance. John Cole was his leading receiver. Warren Norman and Zac Stacy COMBINED for 35 yards. I'm fairly certain this game is the reason why Johnson retired the following summer.
Is Vanderbilt Favored?: Well, they're playing the #4 team in the country, so... (+29.5 point underdogs).
Most Potent Offensive Threat: Dak Prescott. Prescott just saw his Heisman hopes take a big hit in last week's loss to Alabama. That means he's going to come out with every intention of burning the Commodores down to their foundation. Ever seen a quarterback focus so hard that the capillaries in his eyes burst? That'll be Dak. And then, he'll torch Vanderbilt with his blood-vision for four touchdowns and 400 total yards. It'll be like a South American statue of the Virgin Mary come to life and slinging touchdowns.
Most Potent Defensive Threat: Preston Smith. Smith is responsible for driving opponents back 73 yards over the course of 10 games. More than one in every three tackles that he makes comes behind the line of scrimmage. He's got eight sacks this season. He'll get to know Johnny McCrary intimately on Saturday unless Vandy did nothing but offensive line work over the bye week.
Matchup to Watch: C.J. Duncan and Latevious Rayford vs. Jamerson Love and Taveze Calhoun. Florida beat Vandy by putting the Commodores' receivers in one-on-one coverage and selling out to stop the run or rush the passer. Duncan and Rayford are talented players, but they'll need to do a better job of shedding coverage early in their routes if they want to support a passing game that will be hindered by the Bulldog pass rush.
Interesting Fact: The state butterfly of Mississippi is the Spicebush Swallowtail. The state pornstar of Mississippi?
You guessed it. Randy Spears.
Bonus Fact!: The name "Mississippi" comes from the Ojibwa word for "crack sweat."
If Mississippi State wins, we: squint towards the bar televisions, shrug indifferently, and resume drinking. A quick look at the comments and traffic suggests that Vandy fans have checked out for the season - which is a real shame with a home date against Tennessee looming. Let's hope this apathy is just a byproduct of a second bye week and not a return to the uncaring fanbases of years past.