Dak Prescott came into this season with a lot of hype and he hasn't disappointed so far. How has he matured and developed as a quarterback since last year?
I think we are seeing Dak rely on passing the ball a bit more to score. He has only hit pay dirt twice with his legs, his other touchdowns, except a receiving touchdown, have come from his arm. He has also given the ball up to his running back more in some option situations, and that might be keeping him in better shape to make plays down the stretch.
All that said, if a big play needs to be made, Prescott is the type of player who will keep it and make it happen. If he can continue to improve to not lock in too early on receivers and keep up some accuracy-he is the most accurate passer in MSU history-he can have a huge year.
The offensive line suffered a major injury to Damien Robinson in preseason. How's it hold up to date?
Losing Robinson hurt, but so far, the line has done a good job adjusting. I would not say they have mauled anyone yet, but the Bulldogs have done a great job rushing the football this year. Of course, you always hold your breath because it was not against the staunchest of defenses, even though South Alabama had been on a defensive roll since last year.
For the Mississippi State offensive line it is simple. Eliminate pre-snap penalties, protect the quarterback and open some holes. The last two have happened often this year, and the first did well at Davis Wade Stadium, but there were problems in Mobile. If the crowd caused the pre-snap penalties, that does not bode well for Saturday.
On defense, Chris Jones seems to be disappointing early on, but Preston Smith has been off to a huge start. What's been the story there?
I'm not so sure that Chris Jones has been disappointing as much as he has been targeted be the opposing teams. He has still made plays this year, but he has been fighting off double teams much of the time. On the flip side, I do not think it is fair to say Smith is making all the plays because he has more freedom because of the opposing team's scheme. I think they are both doing what you are supposed to do. If a team wants to double someone, then someone else needs to make them pay. Smith has done that.
When you think about how talented some players have been, such as Glenn Dorsey for example, in this league, no one ever won SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week three times in a row until Smith did. That is saying something.
State's run defense has been outstanding, but the pass defense has been torched a couple of times now. How much of a concern is that versus a big-play threat like Travin Dural?
Most everyone is focusing on this being a strength on strength match-up between the LSU running attack and the MSU front seven, but I think the passing game against the MSU secondary might be the deciding factor in how the LSU offense performs in this game. What happened against UAB was bad, and every coach on the Bulldogs' schedule had to notice it. South Alabama took some shots without success, but part of that was due to dropped passes.
The Bulldogs should have Justin Cox back, which will help at the safety position, but it is a valid concern. If LSU beats Mississippi State deep three times, the Bulldogs do not have much of a chance in this game. Why three? That is what UAB did.
With a major renovation to the stadium complete and some new fancy football digs, what's the pressure like on Dan Mullen right now? What would a win in Baton Rouge mean?
A win in Baton Rouge would be huge given any circumstance. Everyone alive when MSU last won in Baton Rouge can drink, and they can almost rent a car without getting gouged for being under 25. Kids born the same year Mississippi State last beat LSU are in high school. This series is getting close to starting to see the same type of graphics that pop up during Florida/Kentucky football games.
There is pressure on Mullen for this team to turn the corner this year, and while the expansion might be playing a part, I think it is just the natural wave of momentum and improvement. We are not that far removed from the six interception game, and Mullen has coached his team to games against LSU that have been close through three quarters. The pressure there is to finish the job. LSU seems to be weaker this year than in quite some time, but the Tigers are still a top-notch team. That is the pressure of the SEC West. No matter how "down" anyone is, they are still good. The pressure is starting to build to see the Bulldogs take that next step. Mullen needs a win Saturday to relieve some of that. It would not be a fireable offense at all, but it would be a let down if a win does not come over the next four weeks.