Mississippi State (3-3) and Vanderbilt (2-5) will face off for the second consecutive season at 3 p.m. CT on Saturday in Nashville.
The Bulldogs are looking to bounce back heading into this matchup after suffering a tough 49-9 home loss to Alabama last Saturday, while the Commodores look to keep improving after dropping a painfully close 21-20 game to the South Carolina Gamecocks last week.
Here are three key Bulldogs to pay attention to heading into this weekend's matchup.
1. WR Malik Heath
Last season against the Commodores, Malik Heath led the team with nine receptions for 79 yards. This season, he has not been put up the numbers that receivers such as Makai Polk and Jaden Walley have simply because he has not been targeted as much. When he is targeted, he makes the most of it-- through the five games he has played, Heath has totaled 22 receptions for 246 yards and two touchdowns. Vanderbilt has one of the worst defenses in the SEC, and Heath has proven that he is capable of making huge plays against their secondary. As one of the most experienced receivers on the team, expect Heath to have a breakout game that defines the rest of the season for him this weekend.
2. DL Nathan Pickering
Nathan Pickering is one of the most improved players on defense and has proven himself tremendously this season. Last season, the defensive tackle played in five total games--he has already been in more games than that this year. Through six games, Pickering has accounted for 10 total tackles, one sack and one tackle for a loss. In State's 26-22 victory over Texas A&M on October 2nd, it was Pickering who sacked quarterback Zach Calzada late in the fourth quarter to seal the victory for his team. His coaches report that he is playing with more confidence, which is good news for Bulldogs fans. If Pickering can continue competing as well as he has and making key plays, he will quickly become a leader on defense.
3. QB Will Rogers
Although Will Rogers had an outstanding game against Texas A&M, he had his worst game of the season last Saturday against Alabama. The true sophomore quarterback was 35-55 with 300 yards and three interceptions in the team's 49-9 loss to the Crimson Tide. An extreme high followed by an extreme low can make or break a quarterback.
Rogers will need to make quicker decisions and get his accuracy back up to the percentage it was only a few weeks ago to ensure victory for his team. With the help of his outstanding group of receivers, this is certainly a feat that he can accomplish. Although Vanderbilt's defense may not be regarded among the best, the Commodores should be taken seriously. This weekend's game will show if Rogers can bounce back from his most recent performance.