The Other Huddle: South Alabama

Mississippi State(2-0) will travel to South Alabama (1-0) for the first time this weekend. A sell out crowd awaits the Bulldogs as the Jaguars have exhausted the entire paid pass supply earlier this week. Emotions and expectations are running high in Mobile as Coach Joey Jones and his staff play host to an SEC squad for the first time in school history.

Tommy Hicks covers the Jaguars for Hicks has seen the program grow in recent years and has watched transfer quarterback Brandon Bridge mature over the course of his time in the South Alabama program.

Bridge will face off against the Bulldogs for the second time in his college career even though the rematch comes in new school colors.

"The offense has looked good in fall camp, though it has just one game under its belt," reported Hicks. "Brandon has improved a great deal since last season and has a greater grasp of the offense and operating it.

"He has great athletic skills and when he plays within himself is a very talented player.

"The player MSU fans saw as a freshman at Alcorn was someone making the most of his athletic gifts. Now, he's more of a quarterback in the sense he sees plays developing and wraps his abilities around the players alongside him. The offense includes several other play makers and he recognizes he doesn't have to do everything himself."

Needless to say, Jaguar fans are downright giddy about an SEC program coming to play in their home stadium.

"It's going to be the program's first sellout and with the expectations for this year's South Alabama team, it should be a fun atmosphere for everyone to be a part of," explained Hicks. "Having a SEC team play at Ladd-Peebles Stadium for the first time against the Jags adds to the atmosphere, especially with MSU being a SEC West team.

"There is a lot of excitement about the game and Jags' fans are excited. But what the game means to the program as a whole is also a factor surrounding the game."

An SEC program brings big crowds, big dreams and big players. The Bulldog's physical size has raised an eyebrow or two in Mobile.

"Head coach Joey Jones said earlier this week his greatest concern is Mississippi State's size, especially on the offensive line and defensive front seven, and how the Jags will be able to battle that advantage for four quarters," stated Hicks.

Eight Mississippians are currently on the South Alabama active roster, some who received some recruiting interest from the Bulldogs. The chance to battle the home state team and some players from the Friday night fights is one those players welcome.

"As you can imagine, this is a big game for the entire team, but it takes on extra meaning for several players, Jay Jones included," explained Hicks. There's also defensive end Jimmie Gipson III, who was an All-America pick last year for East Mississippi Community College.

"Playing against a SEC team, especially a SEC team from Mississippi, only enhances the excitement level for those players, and there are quite a few on the roster."

The Jags won six games last season and could have won a few others with one more big play.

Team confidence is high heading into the weekend.

"The three-game win streak the Jags had at the end of the year, including beating Sun Belt Conference co-champion Louisiana-Lafayette 30-8 in the final game of the year, served to give those in the program a lot of confidence," explained Hicks. "You add all the one-point and two-point losses the team had a year ago, as well as playing Tennessee to within a touchdown in Knoxville, and there is a confidence level that comes from that.

"That makes this Saturday's game an important one; if the Jags should win or play MSU close and competitively, that confidence cointinues to grow, but if it's a walk for MSU, that confidence might be shaken a bit."

Mississippi State's game at South Alabama is set for a 3:00 PM kickoff and will be broadcast by ESPNews.

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