To echo every person alive today: game day is here. Finally. Sweet, beautiful, violent football returns today.
The Game: Mississippi State vs. Oklahoma State, 2:30 central, on ABC or ESPN2 depending upon viewing area.
The Keys: Defensive coordinator Geoff Collins said the pass rush is the most important thing to his defense. OSU’s up-tempo offense attempts to tire out the big boys up front, something Collins will try to negate with frequent substitution.
Defensively, Dan Mullen said one his primary goals is to limit the big plays. “We have to make them work for scores,” he said.
On offense, MSU finds itself both wanting to score a lot to keep up and control the clock to offset the Cowboy offense. Of course, as offensive coordinator Les Koenning said, if they’re in a position to score, they’re going to try and get points whichever way works best.
Matchup to Watch: The strength of OSU’s defense is at defensive tackle and the strength of MSU’s offense is the interior of the offensive line. The winner of that battle will go a long way in deciding the victor.
Underrated Storylines: Will we see the return of Dak Attack? Koenning and Mullen both talked about the difference in MSU’s backup quarterback Dak Prescott. Last year, they put him in to get him experience. Now, he’s scored touchdowns, converted for first downs and led drives. Russell, obviously, is the starter and primary passer, but Prescott is more experienced and confident than ever and the dual-threat QB could offer a change of pace, especially if MSU wants to run a ball-control style of play for a bit.
Lost amongst the talk of receivers both young and old is junior tight end Malcolm Johnson finally starting a season healthy. He’s one of MSU’s most talented pass-catchers and with his size and speed is a big match-up problem for the Cowboys (and anyone, really). It wouldn’t be surprising to see him first or second on the team this year in touchdowns, catches and yards, and that starts today.
Game MVPs: Senior running back LaDarius Perkins, junior receiver Jameon Lewis, junior linebacker Matt Wells. A safety-turned linebacker, the uber-athletic Wells was a consideration for Underrated Storylines in a game like this.