Q & A with Mississippi State Publisher

KSR recently exchanged Q&As with GenesPage.com regarding the upcoming Kentucky vs. Mississippi State tilt. Here's what Mississippi State Publisher Gene Swindoll had to say.

Question: What is Mississippi States (or their fans) perception of UK's program and how UK has played in the past 2 or 3 years? Have the Cats earned more respect from the Dogs?

GenesPage.com Publisher - I think the MSU fans believe the Kentucky program is a notch or two better than it has been in the past. And because of that I think there is more respect for the football program. But based on the game predictions I see on my forums, MSU fans still believe they will defeat Kentucky, home or away. Some believe it will be close while others think the Bulldogs will win by two or three touchdowns

Question: KentuckySportsReport.com Subscribers - Curious as to their injury situation? Their QB's have 12 INT's between them so are teams stacking the box to try and slow Dixon down?

GenesPage.com Publisher - First, the injury question. State's starting strong safety, Zach Smith, has been out for several games this year. And it's not certain when he will be back this year. He has been replaced by true freshman Johnthan Banks who has been outstanding so far in his two starts. In fact, he's had four interceptions in those two games, two were returned for touchdowns against Florida last weekend. Also injured is redshirt freshman offensive tackle Tobias Smith, the projected starter at right tackle coming into the season. He's slowly coming back from his injury but the guy starting in place of him is a senior, Craig Jenkins, who has started for a couple of years prior to this year and has been solid so far this season. Starting kicker Sean Brauchle has been out a few weeks and will probably be out this week, but backup kicker Derek DePasquale has been very solid as his replacement. Starting defensive end Charles Burns is expected to play this week after being out for a few weeks.

KentuckySportsReport.com Subscribers - I am interested in their line play. Do they have the big uglies that can control the line of scrimmage on the offensive set and do they generate enough of a pass rush out of their front 4?

GenesPage.com Publisher - State probably has the best offensive line that they've had in years. Four of the five were starters last year, so they know each other well. The best of the bunch is left tackle Derek Sherrod, a player who will probably be a 1st or 2nd team All-SEC selection at the end of the year if he continues to play as well as he has so far this season. Stats-wise, Mississippi State is currently fourth in the SEC in rushing yards per game (203.1 yards). Their 4.5 yards per carry is tied for fourth in the SEC. You don't have those kind of rushing stats unless you have the horses up front.

Defensively, Mississippi State has played well against teams that aren't that great offensively and has had a little trouble against outstanding offensive teams such as Houston, Georgia Tech, LSU, Florida and Auburn. But just about every team that has played those teams would have to say the same thing.

I actually look for the defensive line to end up as a strength of this team by the end of the year, especially with the improved play of the secondary the past couple of games. There is some really good talent level on the D-line. Pernell McPhee, a juco All-American DE transfer, is about as good as you get. He will have a long career in the NFL. And the backup defensive tackles, true freshmen Josh Boyd and Fletcher Cox, are future All-SEC and All-American candidates.

Question: KentuckySportsReport.com Subscribers - What do they consider is their team's biggest weakness? The d-line, o-line, TE, WR, DB, what? Also, are the fans happy with the new coaching staff? Are they going to give the staff time to turn things around?

GenesPage.com Publisher - The Mississippi State fans are ecstatic about Coach Dan Mullen and his staff. In only his first year at the helm he has made Mississippi State very competitive against what is probably the toughest schedule in the nation. And he's done that with a fairly young group of players. It thrills the MSU fanbase to no end to think about what he will do as these players get older and he adds a few more talented players to this group through he and his staff's recruiting efforts.GenesPage.com Publisher - If you had asked me this question two weeks ago I would have said the secondary but their play has improved greatly the past two weeks. Now, I guess you can say the overall passing game is Mississippi State's weakness. The QBs are ok but not big-time guys and the receivers have talent but are relatively young and inexperienced.

Question: KentuckySportsReport.com Subscribers - Do they have a QB controversy? Who will be their QB?

GenesPage.com Publisher - There is no quarterback controversy. Senior Tyson Lee is the starter and sophomore Chris Relf is his backup. Lee is a better passer while Relf is the better runner. And they are primarily used in those roles.

Question: KentuckySportsReport.com Subscribers - If UK came out in black uniforms would they be intimidated?

GenesPage.com Publisher - After playing four of the fifteen best teams in the nation in four of the past five weekends (and playing them very competitively), I don't think anything and anybody can intimidate this Mississippi State football team.

Question: KentuckySportsReport.com Subscribers - How is the new coach perceived down there after a few losses?

GenesPage.com Publisher - As mentioned earlier, Mississippi State fans couldn't be happier with Dan Mullen as their head football coach. While his team has lost five of its eight games, State has been very competitive in all but one of the losses. In fact, a couple of less turnovers or a couple of less penalties in each of those losses and State could easily be 5-3 or 6-2 instead of 3-5.

Question: KentuckySportsReport.com Subscribers - With the amount of youth Mississippi State puts on the field, how will they react to the hostile environment in Lexington?

GenesPage.com Publisher - These guys don't and won't get intimidated by anyone. They have played tooth and nail against some of the best teams in the country four of the past five weekends. And they could have easily won 2 to 3 of those games with a little luck. So, no matter how hostile it gets at Lexington, the MSU football team will play hard from beginning to end.

Question:KentuckySportsReport.com Subscribers - What do you see as the key to the game for each team to come away with a win Saturday?

GenesPage.com Publisher - Turnovers and penalties or the lack of same is the key for Mississippi State. If they keep both down to a minimum, they will win this game. If they don't, then that has proven to be the recipe for a loss by Mississippi State this season.

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