- Obviously BG fans are familiar with MSU coach Dan Mullen, since he was a former Falcons assistant under Urban Meyer. How do Bulldogs fans view the program? With a 2-3 record this season, is he under any pressure to lose his job?
Since it’s the first meeting between the two schools, I’m not sure how much MSU fans know about Bowling Green other than Mullen coached there. But in his fifth season here, Mullen has given nothing but praise to the Falcons, calling them the best team in the MAC. So that’s the view Bulldogs fans have been receiving.
As for Mullen, the 2-3 record is probably one game behind where he’d like to be. But that third win fell 10 seconds short against Auburn. He’s had his starting quarterback go down. His starting safety and offensive tackle both are done for the year, and he’s dealing with virtually no experience at wide receiver. Fans continue to pose the question, but the administration understands the obstacles he’s dealt with.
- Mullen has earned a reputation for exceptional offense ... How has he found success in the SEC, which is known for rugged defense? The rushing and passing numbers per game are similar for the Bulldogs -- do they run to set up the pass, or do they pass to set up the run?
Since arriving in Starkville in 2009, Mullen’s offenses rank at the top in Mississippi State football history, including passing yards, completion percentage, touchdowns and yards gained. He’s developed Tyler Russell into one of the best quarterbacks in program history.
As Dak Prescott evolves into the starter, he’s been able to find a mix that he created in most notably in Florida with Chris Leak and Tim Tebow. How the offense runs from there depends on which quarterback is in the game. With Prescott any play can transform into a run. Russell is more of a conventional passer who uses running back LaDarius Perkins.
- Dak Prescott and Tyler Russell seem to be "sharing" the QB duties now that Russell has come back from injury. What is the plan to use them against BG? Are they similar QBs? And who are some of their top targets?
Mullen said Wednesday each game will be different regarding how much each quarterback plays. He’ll determine playing time during the week of practice and how well each performs. It’s likely we won’t know anything until Saturday. Last week when the video board revealed the starting lineup it listed 11 players, but no quarterback.
Russell is conventional pocket passer, while Prescott is a dual-threat quarterback. So far this season, each has honed in on wide receiver Jameon Lewis. He’s by far the Bulldogs’ top receiver.
- The defensive numbers for the Bulldogs look solid. How has the defense played this season? And what does this defense do best?
The defense has been the strongest unit for Mississippi State this season. Its best attribute is taking away what the opponent does best. Against Oklahoma State, it silenced the Cowboys’ wide receivers. When MSU played Auburn, the Tigers’ running backs struggled. The defense turned in its best performance against Troy. The Trojans’ Corey Robinson entered the game as the active leader in passing yards and left adding just 105 to that total.
- Who are some of the top players to watch on the Mississippi State defense?
The linebackers anchor the defense. Benardrick McKinney, Deontae Skinner and Matthew Wells all create havoc defensively. Up front the Preston Smith leads an improved defensive line. Freshman D-lineman Chris Jones might be the most talented player on that side of the ball and is coming off his best game against LSU.
In the secondary Jamerson Love and Taveze Calhoun are the team’s best corners, while Nickoe Whitley enters the game tied for the active lead in career interceptions.
- What is the state of MSU's special teams? Who are the players to watch? Is there one area on special teams where the Bulldogs are especially strong?
Mississippi State has struggled to a degree on special teams. The Bulldogs don’t have much of a punt return. Devon Bell has been inconsistent on field goals as well. Its strongest aspect may be kick returning. Jameon Lewis surpassed 1,000 career return yards earlier this season. He also has one career kickoff return for a touchdown.