Friday, September 14, 2012

From the other side: Mississippi State

A big thanks to Brandon Marcello of the Clarion-Ledger, based out of Jackson, Miss., for his help.

1.  Why is Mississippi State playing this game AT Troy and is this a nothing to gain/everything to lose type game?

I wrote about this very topic in Friday's Clarion-Ledger. Mississippi State, first under Greg Byrne and now Scott Stricklin, have sought 2-for-1 deals since 2008. Troy will return to Mississippi State twice in exchange for this game, and the Bulldogs save a whole lot of money in the process. MSU is willing to "risk" it on the road because of the money the program saves and, also, the proximity of the game. There will be a healthy MSU contingent in the stands in Troy on Saturday.

2. Do you sense anyone looking past Troy?

Dan Mullen says the Bulldogs had a bad practice Wednesday, but bounced back Thursday. I don't believe MSU is looking over Troy. After all, South Alabama is on the schedule next week, and going on the road has prove to be dangerous in the past. Remember, MSU was down 3-0 at UAB last season before Tyler Russell supplanted Chris Relf at quarterback in the second half, threw three touchdowns and won 21-3. That game has been used as motivation.

3. What's been the biggest thing you've seen about Tyler Russell's improvement and what kind of game do you see him having on Saturday?

His confidence is much higher, for one. He threaded the needle on several throws against Auburn, and just hasn't made a mistake (save for one sack against Auburn). The two-quarterback system is gone. Dak Prescott, the backup, does play, but only in extreme short-yardage situations (third or fourth down) and when the game is out of hand. Russell has also been willing to take a few big hits, showing some patience in the pocket we haven't seen in recent years in Starkville.  It  helps having four senior receivers on the team as well.

4. What are some strengths and weaknesses of the defense?

The secondary, so far, is the strength. Three seniors lead this group - cornerbacks Johnthan Banks and Darius Slay, and strong safety Corey Broomfield. MSU has picked off five passes through two games, including a pair by Banks against Auburn. The linebackers are strong, but I'm still waiting for more sacks off the edge from defensive ends Denico Autry and Shane McCardell. Honestly, and I know this may sound crazy, but it's hard to find a weakness with this defense so far. State has done a good job of mixing up plays and confusing offenses. Auburn totaled 90 yards before MSU loosened the grip with the game in hand in the fourth quarter.

5. Under what circumstances could you see Mississippi State slipping up and actually losing this game?

If Troy gets up a couple of touchdowns early, and the Trojans can find a way to run the ball on the Bulldogs. MSU's offense did struggle at times against Auburn, especially when the Bulldogs forced turnovers. MSU did not score a single point off five Auburn turnovers. If MSU stumbles, commits a few penalties and gets down early and has to rely on the offense to get back in the game, the upset is possible.

6. How do you see the game going? 

I'm not much of a prognosticator, but I see MSU relying on its defense in a low-scoring game in the first half before the Bulldogs' offensive line wears down Troy's defensive front. I think MSU will run away with this game in the second half to move to 3-0.

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