Yeah, that's Sly carrying the flag. Is there nothing this man can't do?
Let's not sugar-coat this. If you go by past performance this season, MSU is one of the worst teams in the SEC.
Let's look at the stats:
- Last in scoring offense
- 9th in scoring defense
- Next to last in total offense
- 10th in total defense
- Last in rushing offense
- Next to last in rushing defense
- 7th in passing offense, a statistic bolstered by a big game against SLU and lots of passing against Georgia Tech; however...
- Last in passing efficiency
- 10th in sacks allowed
- Tied for 10th in first downs per game
- Second to last in 3rd down conversion rate
- Adding insult to injury, with all that offensive lack of firepower, they're also 3rd to last in punting average
That is awful, at least on offense. The defensive problems appear to me to be a symptom of the offense struggling. They have poor cumulative defensive statistics, but I think that's just because their offense can't stay on the field and the opponents get a lot of chances.
That said, I think this team could actually be better than the statistics indicate, at least if they figure out that Wesley Carroll can't play and actually go with Tyson Lee, who might be able to play. If they shore up the quarterback position, the rest may follow.
Don't get me wrongly. I think MSU still is way behind, even if Tyson Lee can play a bit. I don't believe their offensive line is as good as last year's, as evidenced by their paltry rushing averages and their high numbers of sacks allowed. If you can't block, you can't win, but a competent quarterback would help.
Their defense appears solid. They get sacks. They held Auburn to 3 points. But they are giving up 4.6 yards per rush and even Louisiana Tech was able to pass on them effectively.
On paper, we should be ahead by 3 lengths and pulling away when we get to the home stretch. But these games are played on paper, and MSU has a history of jumping up and beating better teams when it's least expected. Think, Florida in 2004, or Bama 2006, or Auburn/Bama/Kentucky in 2007 (though it can easily be argued they were better than Bama that year).
We can't go into this game thinking it's over before it starts, or we'll be the next victim of a scrappy team looking for pride and little else.
And how embarrassing would it be to lose to the team that lost to Louisiana Tech? That got blown out by Georgia Tech?
Where are the interesting matchups here? I can think of two places:
- Our offensive line against their front 7. They may not be Auburn, but they aren't bad. We need to win this battle up front.
- Our receivers/quarterbacks against their secondary. MSU has playmakers in the secondary, players that scored defensive touchdowns last year. Players like Derek Pegues and Anthony Johnson. Those guys can play, and if we're going to move the ball and avoid turnovers, we will have to keep an eye on them.
Everywhere else, I think we're significantly better than they are. But that doesn't mean it's a definite win.
When going up against a team like this, it's important to get ahead early. If you get ahead early, they will probably lose confidence and the game will get out of hand. If you keep them in it early, they gain confidence as the game goes on. Then you have a problem.
We still don't know if Andrew Hatch will play, but I'm guessing he won't, despite Les Miles' assurances that he will be ready. He claimed Hatch suffered a "neck injury". Yeah, right. It was a concussion. You know it. I know it. And the American people know it.
I tell everyone this is not a blog about politics, but that doesn't mean I can't post a gratuitous picture of Bob Dole.
With Hatch having suffered a CONCUSSION, it would be wise to keep him out, and there's probably no great reason to play him anyway. Charles Scott could probably win this one on his own, and it will give us an excuse to play Jordan Jefferson, who needs the work if he's going to use up a year of eligibility.
And yes, as Poseur said, we own Mississippi State. It really has been an incredible run against them of 16 of the last 17, a streak that dates back to the Mike Archer era. THE MIKE ARCHER ERA! Mississippi State had some pretty good years in that time, and we sure had some lousy ones. There were years when MSU was the only SEC team we beat. There were years when MSU would have been favored by double digits. Yet we always win, usually big. It's incredible.
I'll still be watching though.