Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Mississippi State Preview

Word is MSU is a changed team; Coach Mullen has the cowbells ringing in perfect harmony and all's perfect in Starkville. State puts up 40 something against a terrible Memphis team and suddenly State is a dominant force in the west. I agree Dan Mullen is just what the doctor ordered for a program that was in complete disarray and on the verge of quickly becoming the doormat of the SEC right next to Vandy. He has won over his players and they believe in the Mullen way. I am not, however, buying that State is ready to compete for an SEC title because they played well against Memphis. I do believe this will be a scrappy, well-coached, disciplined, tough-nosed football team beaming with confidence and eager to prove itself on a national stage. I also believe the last sentence adequately describes the Auburn Tigers as well. And I believe if Auburn jumps out to a fast start against State, it may rekindle the recent past and State may fold in a hurry. It will be interesting to see. Of course, we haven't seen how this Auburn team, Cam Newton in particular, responds to adversity (and there will surely be some Thursday night).

Keys to the game:

1. Auburn cannot turn the football over, period! The offense must make life easier for the defense and carry them early on this season as they knock the rust off. Giving State extra possessions, good field position, and putting the defense in precarious situations will spell disaster.

2. We cannot give up the big play. I fully expect MSU to score some points in this game and that's fine...but we must make them earn what they get and cannot allow easy scores. Most offenses can't complete a drive without either a drive-stopping penalty or committing a turnover. Make their offense be perfect.

3. Make MSU one-dimensional. MSU wants to throw the football more. Again that's fine. Throw it all night long. Just don't allow the running backs to gash you for long gainers when they do decide to run the football. Much like Auburn, MSU will pass to open up the run. Stopping the run makes life as a coordinator and defender much simpler when you know they're throwing the ball.

4. Weather the storms. First conference road trip with a new QB is always interesting. How will Cam and the team respond when/if he throws an INT or fumbles away a critical possession?

5. Establish the line of scrimmage and run at will. We have a lot of weapons to run the football. If we can run the ball with success, we'll be hard to beat all year long.

Defensively, success hinges on pressure and making MSU one-dimensional. Whatever our biggest weakness is as a defensive unit will be evident after this game and we will know more about what we truly have. Whatever the case may be, I believe you'll see enormous growth out of this defense with each game.

Offensively, it's all about mental fortitude, taking care of the football, and cutting out silly penalties. We have superior talent. We just have to be patient and keep plugging away. It won't come as easy as it did last week.


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