Mississippi State comes back home for the first time of the 2013 season as they get set to kickoff against in-state foe, Alcorn State.
Who: Mississippi State (0-1) vs. Alcorn State (1-0)
Where: Starkville, Miss.; Davis Wade Stadium at Scott Field
When: Saturday, September 5; 2:30 p.m CT on CSS (Also available on ESPN3.com)
Series Record: MSU leads, 1-0; The Last Time: MSU, 49-16 in Starkville.
Mississippi State starts their home season with less optimism than it had last year around this time but there are still a lot of good things that can happen for the Bulldogs. Today marks a game where the inexperienced players can catch up a bit and quarterback Dak Prescott can get his first chance of managing a game planned around him. Coaches and players have talked all week about how nothing changes with Prescott in the game as opposed to Tyler Russell. Most of us know that this is more than likely coach speak.
While the playbook doesn't necessarily change, the way that they will form their offensive scheme likely does. Prescott brings what MSU fans have been waiting to see revived over the last three years. What Chris Relf was able to do so well, Prescott can do even better if everything aligns perfectly. I think in this game fans will be able to see a bit of that sprinkled in to the passing that the offense entails as well. Expect to see much more read option than you see when Russell is in the game but things still might be a bit vanilla as to keep Prescott healthy and to slow-play Auburn a tad as well. Now, my three keys to victory.
Back to the Basics: Fans grumbled throughout the second quarter into the final minutes of last week's game because the offense was at a standstill. Things have not gone as planned in the last seven games offensively and it's caused some concern around Starkville. While the offense last year put up as big of numbers as there has been at MSU, there still is something missing than was seen in 2010 when the Bulldogs had their best season in 10 years.
Dan Mullen has seemed out of wack ever since Russell has taken over full-time. As great as a passer as he is (probably the best in school history) the offense has been predictable in the game plans with him under center. If Prescott gets the offense running the way that Mullen had it with Relf, there could be some rumblings of a quarterback controversy this time next week.
Stay Healthy: The score wasn't the only thing that was bad news for Bulldog fans moving forward. An array of MSU players went down with injuries in game one and most of them won't be playing this week. Safety Jay Hughes is done for the year after only two possessions and Russell is most definitely out for at least this week with a concussion. Right guard Justin Malone has been rumored to be out for some time as well after going down in the second half of the game and there is rumblings that running back Ladarius Perkins could be sitting this week.
Point is, MSU has to stay healthy this ball game. There simply can't be any more injuries for this team moving forward as they graduate under a dozen players this year and a lot of talent has yet to prove itself. This might be the week that younger players get the nod to play more than usual as to both give them experience and protect starters for next week's first SEC game against Auburn.
Dial up the Pressure: Last week we saw a lot of pressure by the defensive line and linebackers to much success at times even without a sack put up on the board. This week, MSU needs to continue to appease fans by bringing relentless pressure from the edges against a young, undermanned Alcorn State team that could turn into negative yardage or turnovers. The defense is also looking for its first takeaway of the season after having none last week and I think they'll get three or four in this game.
Defensive coordinator Geoff Collins mentioned on ESPN radio Thursday that he was excited to see defensive tackle Quay Evans back this week. This would be potentially huge news for the MSU defense after Evans and classmate Nick James didn't make the trip in week one. Mullen mentioned that Evans was making good progress but James could quite possibly redshirt this season. Evans is a game-changing tackle that has the offensive line moving backwards more often than forwards but hasn't quite put it all together yet. If he can start to do that, the MSU defensive unit will be stacked up front.
Expect big things from freshman Chris Jones as he continues to learn exactly what is expected out of him in pass rush. It will be interesting to see if the coaches move him outside this week or keep him at tackle. He was a great disadvantage for OSU last week and still has a lot to learn, but limitless potential.
Prediction: This one should be over quickly as I expect that MSU will have too much talent for Alcorn State to handle. We did see the Braves put up quite the fight in 2010, but that was a dangerous time for MSU as it was more of a trap game than this one. The Bulldogs are looking to prove a lot tomorrow after they feel they made too many mistakes in game one.
I predict that Prescott will put nearly 200 yards through the air and another 80 on the ground and the MSU defense will have a big game. Expect lots of young players in the game, especially the young receivers who should see lots of time and opportunities to make plays. Bulldogs win big. MSU, 48-12