Jeremy of the Mississippi State Sports Blog kindly consented to do a Q&A with us, and we really appreciate it. So far this season, we have been able to arrange a Q&A with every single one of our SEC opponents, and that has been great for us. Kentucky plays Mississippi State this weekend in Starksville, and it is a big game for both programs.
My answers to Jeremy's questions can be found at this link. Jeremy's answers to my questions are below, as usual my questions are in boldface:
- Mississippi State went to it's first bowl in a while last season. Why do you think the Bulldogs have not been able to continue their upward momentum this year?
There have been numerous reasons. Before the year even began, we had some players dismissed from the team as well as some injuries that affected our offensive line, in particular.
Wes Carroll, who had a pretty good season last year, was not playing well, probably being rushed to make plays because of missed assignments on the O-line. We would get behind early in games, and abandon the run (or main strength) and try to make stuff happen, which would cause over/under thrown passes, bad checks and reads, etc.
We also lost Jamar Chaney for the season in the first game against LaTech. He was our starting linebacker and a leader on the defense. He was replaced by a rotation of less-experienced guys.
As you may know, Kentucky has struggled on offense this year. But Mississippi State is dead last in the SEC in scoring offense, and despite giving up 63 points to Florida, UK is still 7th in scoring defense. What does MSU have to do to put points on the board against the Wildcats?
We really rely on our defense to make plays and put our offense in a good position to score, so we will need to be smart and force turnovers. Our offense also needs to be able to keep a drive going long enough to rest our defense. When the offense is going 3 and out, the defense gets tired and that is when we lose the game.
I think if we can establish the run early, control the line of scrimmage, and make plays, we will be able put some points on the board.
- Kentucky and Mississippi State both have great pass defense this year, ranking second and third in the league respectively. I know what makes UK's pass defense so tough, but what is it that makes the Bulldogs so good against the pass?
Our entire defense is fast. Our linemen can put great pressure on the QB and give him very little time to sit back and make reads. Pegues and Fitzhugh are excellent at their safety positions as well. We have 8 seniors on defense, including 3 in the secondary, and FS Derek Pegues has 11 career interceptions.
- Mississippi State was really tough back in the late 1990's. What has changed to bring them so far down after looking like they were moving up to becoming one of the SEC's stronger programs?
A lot of folks say that Jackie Sherrill's use of the JUCO players brought a lot of discipline problems into the program and it just sort of spiraled down from there. Croom was able to come in and really bring some of that back to the program, even as far as cutting some players that did not fall in line with team rules.
What player on offense should the Wildcats be most concerned about? On defense? And finally, predict the final score.
Our new starting QB Tyson Lee seems to be doing well. He has the ability to break out of the pocket and run for 4 or 5 yards when pressured and has a pretty good arm on him. Of course, our running backs are the main feature of our offense - Anthony Dixon and Christian Ducre. Throw in Arnil Stalworth, who can roll out as a receiver, and our backfield is pretty strong.
Dixon will just line up and run over you. Ducre is more of a finesse runner and can also catch pretty good.
On defense, Jesse Bowman is a monster on the d-line. Derek Pegues is probably the most talented player on our entire team, and also returns kick-offs and punts for us and has been successful in that role.
With both teams having such great defense, I can see this being a tough game. I am going to go with a Bulldog victory, 17-14.
Thanks again to Jeremy for working with us on this. Here's to a well-played and injury-free game on Saturday. Your comments are, as always, welcome and appreciated.