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Schedule analysis: Mississippi State Bulldogs

As we inch closer to the start of the season, it’s time to review the schedules of every SEC team.

Whether it’s home vs. road, nonconference matchups or potential trap games, there’s a lot to get into.

We continue the series with the Mississippi State Bulldogs.

Nonconference opponents (with 2015 record)

Sept. 3: vs. South Alabama (5-7)

Sept. 17: at UMass (3-9)

Oct. 14: at BYU (9-4)

Oct. 29: vs. Samford (6-5)

SEC home games

Sept. 10: South Carolina

Oct. 8: Auburn

Nov. 5: Texas A&M

Nov. 19: Arkansas

SEC road games

Sept. 17: LSU

Oct. 22: Kentucky

Nov. 12: Alabama

Nov. 26: Ole Miss

Gut-check time: We’re going to find out what the post-Dak Prescott era at Mississippi State will look like in a hurry. One week after hosting South Alabama, South Carolina comes to town for a pivotal matchup. Seeing as it’s at home, the first SEC game of the season and it’s set for primetime on ESPN, there’s some pressure that comes with that. With a new quarterback to work in, a new staff on defense and a new set of expectations, it will be interesting to see how the Bulldogs measure up against a Gamecocks team that is in the midst of rebuilding under coach Will Muschamp. A win for Dan Mullen's squad could provide some much-needed confidence and possibly open the door to a bowl berth down the road. But a loss against a team that might finish at the bottom of the East would signal just how far away State is from the days when Prescott had the Bulldogs atop the West and firmly in the national conversation.

Trap game: To be clear, UMass is not a good football program. A 3-9 record and fifth-place finish in the MAC will tell you that. But Mississippi State doesn’t have the talent and experience to sleepwalk over the Minutemen. The margin for error just isn’t there this season with four quarterbacks vying to replace Prescott, no semblance of a running game and two of their top four receivers gone. And seeing as they’re not only taking an unusual trip to UMass, but it also comes on the heels of a trip to LSU, watch out. If the Bulldogs don't rebound and bring their best effort, they could be in for an upset.

Final analysis: If State hopes to keep its streak of bowl appearances alive, it better hoard wins early, because November won’t be kind with Texas A&M and Arkansas at home and Alabama and Ole Miss on the road. But still, a path to six wins is there with a manageable nonconference slate and a weak draw from the East (Kentucky, South Carolina). What’s more, if Auburn stumbles out of the gate (the Tigers' September is brutal) and talk of Gus Malzahn's job security heats up, there’s the chance that the Bulldogs could pick another W at home.