The SB Nation Mississippi St. Bulldogs community, For Whom the Cowbell Tolls, graciously approached us about a Q&A session for the upcoming game in Starkville between Kentucky and Mississippi St. on Thursday, and we gratefully accepted.
This is the first game against an unranked foe that Kentucky has seen in over a month. that doesn't mean it will be easy, though. As many teams found out this weekend, to their woe, the road in the SEC is anything but easy.
Below are our questions and their answers. You can find our answers to their questions here.
ASoB: What has been the most consistent thing about the Mississippi St. team this year on offense? Defense?
FWtCT: Offensively, perhaps the most consistent thing has been inconsistency. Honestly, they've looked unstoppable and completely hopeless at times this year, and I'm talking about long stretches of the game, or entire games both ways. While both QBs have been successful, the offense seems to have a little more consistency with Dak Prescott, probably just because of his running ability which creates more manageable 3rd down situations.
On defense, the line has been really solid all year. They've done pretty well in rush defense and getting some pressure on opposing QBs. There are 8-10 guys that get rotated in and out and their ability to stay fresh has contributed to this.
ASoB: Mississippi St. so far this year is better only than Kentucky on third down conversions, 13th versus 14th in the league. What has been holding you back on third down; is it getting behind the chains, untimely penalties, a combination? What needs to happen to make this problem less pronounced?
FWtCT: 3rd down conversions have been a major problem for a couple of years now. I think it's a combination of problems stemming from incomplete passes on 1st down to untimely penalties, but perhaps mostly due to the offensive line not getting it done. MSU has a serviceable line filled with 2 & 3 star recruits that can do pretty well and when they get into a rhythm are really effective, however, when there's a big 3rd down and the D-line just wants it more they don't win those battles too often.
ASoB: What part of your defense would you reckon as the strength of the MSU squad, i.e. the line, linebackers, secondary, etc? Same question about the offense. Why?
FWtCT: MSU's front 7 is the strength. The secondary has been very mediocre and that was expected after losing two 2nd round draft picks. Look out for true freshman Chris Jones who might be our best D-lineman right now. Benardrick McKinney is a stud linebacker as well.
MSU's offense does not really stand out at any one unit thus far. The running backs and WR could both be described as pretty good, and the OL is good enough at times, so maybe it's the quarterbacks. We will see both Tyler Russell and Dak Prescott in this one. If it's either one they are basically the reason for any offensive success or failure, their impacts are huge....and most of the time it's positive I would say.
ASoB: Given Kentucky's strengths and weaknesses as you reckon them, what single unit (offense, defense, special teams) needs to play better to defeat Kentucky, and why?
FWtCT: If MSU wants to win this game I believe they will have to impose their will on the defensive front and get in the QB's face. The secondary as I mentioned has been an issue, and one way to prohibit that is to force the quarterback to throw before he's ready. With UK's O-line, this will be an area in which the Bulldogs must excel.
Kentucky is giving up 213 rushing yards per game, MSU is gaining 214, so State should be able to move the ball on the ground. I would expect to see a heavy dose of Dak Prescott, LaDarius Perkins and Josh Robinson.
ASoB: Describe how the game plays out, and predict the final score.
FWtCT: This is an absolute MUST win for Dan Mullen. The fanbase is as fragile as it could be with mediocre results so far this year, coupled with the frustration factor that he hasn't gotten a big time signature win yet. Kentucky won't be that big time win but State fans are looking for a dominant effort against a team that most SEC fans and pundits view as the worst in the SEC. I think, at home, the Bulldogs come out strong and maintain a two touchdown lead from the 2nd quarter on to win 35-21.