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Playin’ Nice: For Whom the Cowbell Tolls

Justin Sutton fills us in on the 2016 edition of Mississippi State.

For Whom the Cowbell Tolls
1. There are some interesting parallels between our teams, with an embarrassing non-conference loss in week one to a quarterback change paying off in week two. LSU is very much a work in progress at the moment. Does that feel to be the case with Mississippi State?

I think saying Mississippi State is a work in progress is a fair observation. The Bulldogs are breaking in a new quarterback. They are replacing a play-making wide receiver in De'Runnya Wilson. They have had to replace some senior leadership on defense, and they have a brand new coaching staff on that side of the ball.

In many ways, I'd say this is Dan Mullen's biggest rebuilding project since coming to Starkville, outside of his first season as head coach. Each time that he has had to replace a quarterback, he has had a better one waiting for him. Replacing Dak Prescott is an awfully tough challenge, and if Nick Fitzgerald can produce like Prescott did, the future will be very bright for the Bulldogs.

2. Nick Fitzgerald had a huge game against South Carolina. What does he bring to the table for State? Does it feel like the start of something big, or just a nice first impression?

One thing that had to jump out was his running ability. He set the school record for rushing yards by a quarterback against South Carolina. He also had a pretty good game slinging the ball around as well. What this will be remains to be seen. I'm going to hold off on anointing Fitzgerald as the next Prescott for right now. Many quarterbacks have gotten a great amount of run (and in the NFL, money....Hello! Matt Flynn) from a good game.

What that game showed is that Fitzgerald has the tools to be a solid quarterback for Mississippi State. If I had to bet, he will turn in many strong performances, but he will still show growing pains at times as most quarterbacks do.

3. The receivers are a known commodity with Fred Ross & Co., but who are some of the other playmakers on this offense to watch for?

Fitzgerald proved that he is someone to watch during the game as he can make plays with both his arm and his feet. Brandon Holloway is a very fast player that usually lines up at running back, because he is one, but can also make plays as a receiver. If he gets space, he can take a play to the house. Unfortunately, the Bulldogs don't seem to use him in the most effective manner all of the time. A sleeper name to watch for, Justin Johnson. The tight end made a few nice plays last year, and he has tremendous upside.

4. New coordinator on defense, with a few losses in the front seven. How's that unit looking two games in?

We need to wait a few more games to really judge the defense. The defense, especially the secondary, got carved up by South Alabama in the season opener. The front seven, even with a few losses has looked solid this season. Need a name of someone who can make play after play, after play...AJ Jefferson. He can be completely unblockable at times. Richie Brown is a talented linebacker that knows how to make plays, and he is just one of many talented linebackers.

Mississippi State faces a huge test against Leonard Fournette this weekend, and if LSU can get passing production out of the quarterback position, it could make it a tough weekend for the Bulldogs on defense.

5. The Bulldogs finally broke the streak the last time they came to Tiger Stadium, and gave themselves a chance to win last season as well. What are your expectations for this Saturday's matchup?

The last two seasons have been the best games in the contest since 1999 and 2000. To me, there are two teams playing to establish themselves after bouncing back from a tough opening week. How will the LSU quarterback position play out? Mississippi State looks settled in theirs, but that will be one tough environment for Nick Fitzgerald to make his first road start.

I'd have to list LSU as favorite in the contest. They are at home, and the Tigers have someone who should be a Heisman contender in Fournette. However, I think this will be another close contest. I'd take the under and expect this game to be decided by a touchdown or less.