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Tennessee Vs. Mississippi State Preview: A Late Evening Attempt to Sort Things Out

Tennessee and Mississippi State really haven't proven anything one way or the other up until now. So why are they viewed so differently?

Dale Zanine-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

Tennessee Volunteers vs. Mississippi St. Bulldogs, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN2

With the possible except of Mississippi State's mild upset win against Auburn, you probably could have guessed both of these two teams' records coming into this game. Which makes the divergent perspectives of how they've done so far ever more curious. Mississippi State is seen as a rousing success and one of the surprise teams of the year; Tennessee is seen as lackluster and slightly disappointing.

Maybe it's because people were buying into the hype surrounding the Vols and were a bit more skeptical of Dan Mullen's prospects in Starkville on principle. But Mississippi State's record does not feature a win against an AQ team likely to finish the year above .500, and Tennessee's does not include a loss to a team likely to finish below .500. So perhaps the best way to approach this game is to be honest about both teams: We don't know.

To that degree, this game could go a long way toward sorting out the middle of the SEC. If Mississippi State wins, and particularly if the Bulldogs win convincingly, they could emerge as a key player in the SEC West -- and perhaps the top challenger to Alabama, if LSU plays especially poorly against South Carolina. And if Tennessee wins, we can look on their solid passing game and say it can probably carry them at least to a bowl. Go with the latter.

Tennessee 35, Missisippi State 28