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Opponent Q&A: The Mississippi State Bulldogs

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Is this a different team from last year? Yeah. Learn how.

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

Auburn and Mississippi State take the field tomorrow night to tangle at Jordan-Hare Stadium. For the Tigers, it’s going to be a revenge game against a team with a similar goal as last year’s Bulldogs, but they’ll have to go about it in a different way without Nick Fitzgerald. Learn about the 2019 MSU squad from For Whom the Cowbell Tolls below!

1. What are your general thoughts on the season so far? Mississippi State has had its big non-conference game already, but unless you’ve been focusing on the Bulldogs specifically, the most anyone’s heard about is your helicopter quarterback. Do you feel like the team is flying under the radar or getting the right amount of attention so far?

I feel like this team is right where it needs to be in terms of attention. It doesn’t have a signature win, it doesn’t have any quality wins, it isn’t exactly loaded with talent, and it doesn’t look to make any big splashes this year. This is an 8-win Mississippi State team, and that’s with them pulling off an upset. They are good, but aren’t great, making the attention the are getting about right on par with what they should be getting.

2. Which quarterback do you prefer?

Of the three that we could use, I really prefer Garrett Shrader. A lot of fans would probably disagree, but this season is most likely a lost cause. It isn’t one where we are going to win 9 or 10 games like we would want. Tommy Stevens would be ideal in a situation like that, where all you needs is a QB to come in and win games. He only has one year, he isn’t a long term fix for us. Garrett Shrader on the other hand, is a true freshman. Every snap is going to be valuable and a learning experience. If we win or lose, I ultimately don’t think it matters this year. Look long term with Shrader, because in a year or two, he will be a NFL level talent.

3. Who else is there to carry the ball aside from Kylin Hill? How much work do you expect the other weapons to get Saturday night?

Kylin Hill in every sense of the word is the bell cow. In matter of fact, he is basically THE running back. With Nick Gibson injured, and young guys behind him, you’ll see him taking almost every handoff on Saturday. Garrett Shrader can make some big plays with his feet, and with your defensive front, he will need to be able to get out of the pocket. Look for him to take some QB Draws and Read Options, as well as some RPOs and turn them up field.

4. Defensively, the Bulldogs lost some of the best talent in the country from the 2018 group. Which replacements have made strides so far this year and what’s the potential of the defensive group?

Our defense has been the Achilles Heel of our team this year. There is arguably a lot of talent. But with suspensions from #TutorGate to start the year, and a ton of young players, it’s just been rough. So far, Cam Dantzler has played well at corner, though not as great as expected. Erroll Thompson continues to be the SEC’s top linebacker, as does Leo Lewis. In the tiny, tiny, sample size we have seen from Willie Gay, he took a pick to the house. The linebackers and secondary are pretty strong. But with the loss of Sweat and Simmons, the defensive line has still yet to see someone step up.

5. Is Joe Moorhead fully accepted in Starkville? He’s got a full year under his belt, so what’s the return with a pretty good sample size? Would you rather have him or Dan Mullen?

It is a mixed bag of opinions when it comes to Joe, more than that it is a really sensitive subject. He definitely isn’t fully accepted, depending on the week it is probably about 60 dislike, 40 like. Personally, I’m only okay with him. He is a phenomenal recruiter, and has already proved that he can get good talent with our freshman playing incredible. It’s honestly so hard to say which one is better, Dan was never going to break the ceiling here. He didn’t win the big ones. But Joe hasn’t either, and Joe is only an okay coach. Doesn’t make the best calls or the aggressive calls. But ultimately, recruiters are winning college football and that makes Joe a good fit for now. Either way, I still would say it’s a coin flip. Ask me again in 10 years, then I’ll tell you.

6. One of our writers says you guys have the best stadium hot dogs in the SEC. How’s that feel to have such an honor bestowed upon you?

The hotdogs are good, but I am just going to say that if ours are the best, the rest must be pretty bad. To be the best in something, we will always take that. But more than hotdogs, we just truly offer the best fan experience in the SEC. Cowbells, hotdogs, and cheap concession prices. We the best.

7. If you’re celebrating a win Saturday night, what’s the one stat on both sides of the ball that tells the tale?

For offense, I honestly think it will be the QB rushing yards. Can he avoid the sacks? Can he move around with the pressure of a great defensive front? If he can turn the ball up field for a couple yards, it’ll keep the defense honest and allow some busted coverages when people come up when he looks like he might run. For defense, I think it will be exactly what we don’t want to receive: sacks. If the defense can get to Bo Nix, I think it is the difference. He is the X-Factor going in to the game, if we get him off, we can win.

8. What’s your prediction for this game?

Like I mentioned in my podcast, these two teams have some epic games in history, especially on The Plains. I think about Relf getting stopped at the one as time expired, Uzomah catching a touchdown with 10 seconds left, I think about a lot of heart break. I think the football gods finally give us a break, and if we play a good game... I think State wins 23-20 with a late field goal. Or they play horrible on the road, which is a trend, and Auburn wins 38-17. Honestly, another coin flip!

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Kickoff comes tomorrow night at 6:00 pm CST from the Plains! War Eagle!