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August 8, 2018 7:59:15 AM
Every day from 99 days out (May 25) until kickoff, I'll put up a post telling you how many days until kickoff and breaking down something about the upcoming season related to that number.
Today, since we are 24 days away from kickoff, we take a look at: MSU allowed fewer than 24 points per game in seven of the nine seasons under Mullen. Today, we guess what that number will be this season.
I've done blog posts in this fashion before and I think this is easiest to break it down this way: the case for and the case against, in terms of this number being lower than last year (20.9).
The case for less scoring allowed: Set the personnel aside and go strictly with schedule. I think the non-conference part is mostly a wash. Two FCS teams; BYU was offensively challenged last year, Kansas State is far from offensively minded; Louisiana Tech is on both schedules. It would be easy to argue that UL Lafayette should be better offensively than UMass was last year, but MSU ended up allowing 23 points in that game, so that one might end up being a push.
The conference schedule is definitely kind in this regard as the East crossover team went from the dominating Georgia to a Florida team that's been offensively challenged for years and is now learning a new system. (Plus, the East crossover game goes from being on the road to at home.) There is also some offensive upheaval going on at Texas A&M and Arkansas, although those games being later in the year could offset that a bit. An underrated factor here is Alabama, which should be noticeably better than last year if the offensive line comes together and the Tua Tagovailoa thing happens/goes as many think it will.
I ultimately say scheduling is mostly a push, but at most a small lean in favor of fewer points.
Then there's the talent. Montez Sweat is awesome, he's back; Jeffery Simmons is awesome, he's back; Gerri Green is awesome, he's back; Mark McLaurin and Johnathan Abram are both awesome, and both of them are back. Are you seeing a theme here?
The case for more scoring allowed: Let's start this with a sneaky important departure: Dez Harris.
Harris's numbers were impacted thanks to injury, but he was critical in his preparation. It was a regular occurrence throughout the season to see him adjust defenders into the right position, making it clear he knew what play was coming and getting someone in the right spot to stop it. That and his presence in a linebacker room filled with youth is something that unit will miss. Leo Lewis, Erroll Thompson, Willie Gay and Sh'mar Kilby-Lane are talented, but can they replace that immediately? It seems tough.
I briefly touched on Alabama earlier, but that's a little more projecting than I'm comfortable with for a game in November. Same goes for Arkansas: a team transitioning to an offense that in theory scores more, but does it take hold in time for this year's game against MSU?
My guess: That 20.9 is really tough to beat. Over the last five years, Alabama is the only one that has done it with any consistency, but MSU has a chance. I think MSU is going to fall in this range, maybe somewhere in the 20-flat or 19 per game range.
Follow Dispatch sports writer Brett Hudson on Twitter @Brett_Hudson