No. 1 Mississippi State set to host UT Martin
STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) Mississippi State has done a lot of things right during its eight-game winning streak to start this season.
Now the top-ranked Bulldogs (8-0, 5-0 Southeastern Conference) hope to clean up some problems when they host UT Martin (5-5) on Saturday.
Mississippi State has had eight turnovers over the past three games, including three against Arkansas last weekend. That's mirrored a rough patch for quarterback Dak Prescott, who has thrown three touchdowns and five interceptions over that same span.
''We take a lot of pride in protecting the football,'' Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen said. ''I am obviously not very happy to have almost two years' worth of turnovers in eight games.''
The Bulldogs have had 17 turnovers this season while forcing 18. Coaches constantly talk about how winning the turnover battle is crucial for victories, but Mississippi State has managed to keep its streak alive despite uneven performances in that category.
The Bulldogs also hope to fix some special teams problems. Freshman Jamoral Graham fumbled a punt return against Arkansas, which eventually led to a Razorbacks touchdown.
''Obviously the fumbled punts are a major concern, because that is a skill,'' Mullen said. ''It is not like they played great defense to force those turnovers. That is us making a mistake.''
UT Martin has a 1-17 record against Football Championship Subdivision teams, with the only win against Memphis in 2012. The Skyhawks' backup quarterback is Dylan Favre, who is the nephew of Brett Favre. He played at Mississippi State in 2010 and 2011 before transferring.
Some things to watch when No. 1 Mississippi State hosts UT Martin on Saturday:
LIMITED EXPOSURE: Coach Dan Mullen has been coy about how much Mississippi State's starting offense and defense will play on Saturday against UT Martin. Quarterback Dak Prescott has been battling a left leg injury, and has occasionally been spotted wearing a protective boot on his left foot. The Bulldogs need him completely healthy for a stretch run that includes games against Alabama and Mississippi.
CLEANING IT UP: Mississippi State has continued to win, even though it hasn't played particularly well in some areas over the past three games. The Bulldogs have had eight turnovers during that span, including three against Arkansas. Prescott has thrown three touchdowns and five interceptions over that span.
RUNNING WILD: Mississippi State continues to have one of the nation's best ground games. Josh Robinson has run for 951 yards and 11 touchdowns this season while Prescott has added 725 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns. All that production has helped Mississippi State average 39.1 points per game and outscore opponents by nearly 20 points per game.
A FAMILIAR FACE: UT Martin's backup quarterback Dylan Favre is the nephew of retired NFL star Brett Favre. Favre played at Mississippi State for two seasons before transferring. He has thrown for 498 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions this season in six games, including one start.
UT MARTIN AGAINST THE FBS: UT Martin has a 1-17 record all-time against Football Bowl Subdivision teams. The Skyhawks' only victory was a 20-17 decision over Memphis in 2012. UT Martin is 0-4 all-time against teams from the SEC and has never played the nation's No. 1 team at the FBS level.
Follow David Brandt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/davidbrandtAP