Hail Stats: The key numbers for MSU-Tennessee and why they favor the Bulldogs

Numbers can sometimes be boring, and for us writer folk, often frustrating, especially when letters get involved in all that math.

But for this weekend, the numbers should be pretty fun, and the only letters we’ll mention are M, S, U and T, with U coming twice, of course.

Bad jokes aside, the stats tell much of the story for Mississippi State and Tennessee this weekend.

Before we move any further, here’s what I consider the biggest number of the game: Tennessee has turned the ball over 10 times, seven interceptions and three fumbles.

Conversely, MSU has only turned the ball over three times, once on an interception and twice on fumbles by receiver Chris Smith.

As we wrote about earlier in the week, both senior quarterback Tyler Russell and senior cornerback Darius Slay said turnovers are the key to the game, as well as three-and-outs. The point each of them had is that one bad drive could be the difference in the game. Based on the numbers, it seems more likely the Volunteers of Tennessee would have such a mistake.

On a more individual basis, a comparison of the Bulldog and Volunteer stars actually comes out a little surprising.

UT’s Justin Hunter is one of the most-discussed receivers in the SEC, and justifiably so, as he’s an extremely talented player. MSU’s Chad Bumphis, leading the team in receiving, actually compares pretty favorably, if not better.

Hunter has 33 receptions for 456 yards and four touchdowns, an average of 13.8 yards per catch. Certainly strong numbers.

Bumphis has 21 receptions for 375 yards and six touchdowns, an average of 17.6 yards per catch. Stronger, perhaps.

While MSU doesn’t have the volume of passing as Tennessee, Bumphis is doing as much as anyone in the conference with balls he gets.

As a team, Tennessee is 122-201 for 1,646 yards passing with seven interceptions and 14 touchdowns. MSU is 84-151 for 1,128 yards with one interception and 10 touchdowns through the air.

Again, on the rushing attack, MSU stacks up against the UT offense well.

Vols running back Rajion Neal has 103 attempts for 460 yards and four touchdowns, averaging 4.5 yards per carry.

MSU’s LaDarius Perkins has 82 carries for 499 yards and six touchdowns, an average of 6.1 yards per rush.

Now, a quick look at some match-up stats.

UT averages 506.6 yards of total offense per game, while MSU gives up an average of 325.6.

On the other side, MSU’s offense averages 404.6 yards per game, while UT’s defense is giving up 425.8 per outing.

Tennessee is scoring 39.4 points per game, while MSU’s defense is only allowing 13.4

The Bulldogs have scored an average of 34.2 while the Vols are giving up 29.6.

And here’s a stat that may mean everything or may mean absolutely nothing: MSU and UT are 13th and 14th respectively in sacks by in the SEC, while the two teams are tied for first in the conference only allowing three sacks each.

Does that mean anything? I don’t know. Probably that there won’t be a ton of sacks, though MSU’s pass rush looked better than it has all year against Kentucky last week, and MSU’s players said this week they plan on trying to get to UT quarterback Tyler Bray as often as possible.

As clichéd announcers will tell you, games aren’t played on paper. But if they were, it seems likely Mississippi State would emerge victorious Saturday against Tennessee.

As I said at the top, I really feel turnovers could be the key to the game. If MSU comes out on the plus side of that battle, which they are so apt to do, the results should be good.

MSU and UT kicks off at 8:06 p.m. on Saturday in Davis Wade Stadium, broadcast on ESPN2.

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