Tennessee State football vs. Mississippi State: Scouting report, score prediction

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  • Eddie George
    Eddie George
    All-American college football player, professional football player, running back, Heisman Trophy winner

Tennessee State wraps up its first season under coach Eddie George Saturday with the biggest challenge so far against Mississippi State on Saturday (11 a.m., ESPN+) at Davis Wade Stadium in Starkville.

TSU (5-5) is 1-5 against FBS opponents since joining the Ohio Valley Conference in 1986. The Tigers beat Georgia State 17-10 in the 2017 season opener.

Mississippi State (6-4) is coming off a 43-34 win over Auburn. The Bulldogs beat Abilene Christian 45-7 in 2019 in their last game against an FCS opponent.

Offense hamstrung

TSU's four-game win streak came to an end when the offense faltered. That happened when the Tigers scored just two field goals through the first three quarters in a 41-20 loss at UT Martin and just one touchdown in the final six seconds of a 36-7 loss to Austin Peay.

The offense had recovered from a slow start in the season to helping get the Tigers in the thick of the OVC race. TSU was in second place before the loss to UT Martin. The unit has dropped from second in the conference to fifth (3297 yards).

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Key injuries

The struggles the offense encountered against UT Martin were difficult to explain. It wasn't as difficult to see why the unit struggled against Austin Peay.

Quarterback Geremy Hickbottom left the game after suffering a back injury midway through the first quarter and did not return. Running back Devon Starling left on the next series with a shoulder injury and didn't return.

Hickbottom (140-of-243 passes, 1,847 yards) and Starling (169 carries, 767 yards) have not practiced this week and will be a game-time decisions, according to George.

Starting cornerbacks De'Amare Chambers and Eddie Graham also missed the Austin Peay game with injuries and are questionable this week.

NOT GOOD ENOUGH: Eddie George: Tennessee State football not good enough to win without its two best players

What's the difference

George, who won the 1995 Heisman Trophy at Ohio State, admitted early in the season he didn't know much about FCS football.

After the second game, he said he was impressed by the quality of play on the FCS level and today he says he's not sure there's that much difference between the levels.

George said the average FCS player might be an inch or two shorter and a step slower than those on the FBS level.

He pointed out the gap has also narrowed with so many players transferring from FBS to FCS programs. TSU has eight former FBS players on its roster.

He also said he is excited to see how his team matches up against Mississippi State.

Score prediction

Mississippi State 42, TSU 10: Twelve FCS teams have beaten FBS opponents this season and several others have come close. TSU might have put up more of a fight against Mississippi State before suffering so many injuries to key players.

Reach Mike Organ at 615-259-8021 or on Twitter @MikeOrganWriter.

This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Scouting report for Tennessee State vs. Mississippi State football

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