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Opponent Q&A - Mississippi State

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For Whom the Cowbell Tolls drops by to tell us about the Bulldogs!

NCAA Football: Florida at Mississippi State Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

Auburn hits the road for the first time this Saturday to take on Mississippi State in Starkville. The cowbells will be a-clangin’, and the defenses should be a-bangin’ in this game between two offenses that have struggled. For some insight into the root of the Bulldogs’ recent woes and how things have gone with new head coach Joe Moorhead, William Mitchell over at For Whom the Cowbell Tolls was kind enough to spend a few minutes with us.

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How do you characterize the MSU season so far? The Bulldogs looked great before starting conference play, and then the offense has taken a hit (not unlike ours). Is that a function of better competition or is MSU just struggling in certain areas right now?

Not very good. There is a disconnect between the coaching staff and the capabilities of the team, currently the new coaching staff is trying to push a down field passing game on a team that was recruited and designed for a heavy run between the tackles offense. The past two weeks have identified some issues that need to be fixed and soon if we are going to have any type success this year.

What was the issue on offense in those last two games? MSU barely managed 400 combined yards against Kentucky and Florida, and only scored 13 points. Is it the offensive line, Nick Fitzgerald, skill players not making plays, or a little bit of everything?

Again this team is designed to run the ball downhill for the majority of the snaps. Last year we as a team ran the ball around 60 to 65 percent of the time, this year we are passing the ball around 80 percent of the time and becoming way too predictable. These changes have made it hard for the team to find any rhythm especially the run game.

Who are the guys that we can count on seeing to help out Fitzgerald on offense?

All of the receivers are good this year, including the tight ends. But the biggest factor that will help Fitzgerald this season is an established run game which would reduce the pressure on him passing and running the ball (he has been averaging only 1.4 yards per carry over the past two games). So I think Kylin Hill and Aeris Williams are pivotal in helping Fitzgerald with the offensive struggles.

What’s the biggest cause for concern for MSU right now? Is it the offensive production or something that we’re not seeing?

Completely offensive production, not scoring a touchdown in over six quarters is by far the worst stat going into this week match-up with Auburn.

What are the early returns on Joe Moorhead after a few games?

He came here with so much hype surrounding his past offenses at Peen State that most Bulldog fans just bought into it. Over the past nine years Mullen produced good offenses but nothing explosive, so these past two weeks have created some head scratching about where all of that hype came from and where all that explosiveness on offense is.

Prediction for Saturday night?

Mississippi state pulls out a victory. I say this because we do have a running game and Auburn does not. As long as we play to Mississippi State’s strengths by pounding the ball and using the passing game to move the sticks we should walk away with a victory. But if we have not learned the lesson on using the run game properly this could easily go for Auburn.

And finally, do you hate us? Auburn and MSU have an oddly high number of beefs throughout their history (Shug getting cowbells banned, Jackie Sherrill helium punting accusations, Cam Newton). Why do you guys dislike us so very much?

I actually live in Columbus, Georgia just 28 miles from Auburn campus. I have been to as many Auburn football games on the Plains as I have been to games in Starkville. I don’t hate Auburn and I have never heard a State fan say that about any program other than TSUN.

Over the past ten years this match-up has become one of the most important games State plays each season due to where it always falls on the calendar. The winner of this game tends to be on track for a good season and in a position to contend for the SEC West. I will also add that for some reason, both teams tend to play each other pretty tough, like in 2011 when yawl won the BCS title Mississippi State beat Auburn on a quarterback draw and got cheated by the ref’s. See, it’s always something between these two teams that makes this early October game so exciting.

(Editor’s note: Let’s just see how cheated Mississippi State got on said quarterback draw.)

Durn carpetbaggin’ refs.

6:30 kick for Auburn and Mississippi State this Saturday! War Eagle!