STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) — Tennessee's Tyler Bray is one of the nation's premier pocket passers, and the 6-foot-6, 215-pound junior has the completions, touchdowns and passing yards to back it up.
Mississippi State's secondary couldn't be more thrilled about the challenge.
In the Southeastern Conference showdown, Tennessee (3-2, 0-2) brings its high-flying passing offense to face the No. 19 Bulldogs (5-0, 2-0), who boast a pass defense that has been among the best in the league the past few seasons.
The Bulldogs have a seasoned quartet of starters — led by cornerbacks Johnthan Banks and Darius Slay — who have combined for 98 career starts and 37 interceptions. Eight have been returned for touchdowns.
"It should be fun," Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen said.
Tennessee's coaches and players have plenty of respect for Mississippi State's defense, but won't make any changes to the offense. Bray has completed 61.1 percent of his passes this season for 1,582 yards, 14 touchdowns and six interceptions.
Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson are huge and talented receivers. Hunter has been especially productive, with 33 receptions for 456 yards and four touchdowns.
Passing is what the Volunteers do. There will be no secrets on Saturday.
"We're not going to hold anything back," Bray said. "We don't care if we're playing Ed Reed or any of those guys. We're going to go after it."
Added Hunter: "I know their coaches are putting it in their heads that we have two good receivers over here. I think it goes both ways. They're talking about us. We're talking about them."
And Mississippi State is eager to prove it's up to the challenge. The Bulldogs have cruised through most of their schedule so far, winning four of five games by double digits.
Tennessee will provide the biggest challenge to date. But Mississippi State has reason to feel confident in the matchup — mostly because of its lockdown secondary
Banks is the leader of the group. His lanky 6-foot-2, 185-pound frame is responsible for 21 career interceptions, including three so far this season. The senior has played against some great quarterbacks during his four years — like Florida's Tim Tebow and Houston's Case Keenum — but said Bray is "different" because of the sheer power he can put behind his throws.
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