An Early Look At Mississippi State

Just like Oklahoma State, Mississippi State is getting used to the start of school while transitioning out of fall camp and into the structure of a game week for the made-for-TV Big 12 vs. SEC showdown in the Texas Kickoff Classic. It isn't quite game week but it's close enough, according to Bulldogs head coach Dan Mullen.

"It's different preparation and everybody is getting used to it," said Mullen. "It's not 100 percent game week and you are still cleaning things up from fall camp.

"It's a lot more game-week orientation. It's a lot like a bye week in that you're working a lot on Oklahoma State and you're also cleaning things up from training camp. There is a bunch of scout team work going on. We started that after the scrimmage last week."

Mullen said in an interview session with the beat media after practice on Tuesday that his secondary was ready for the Oklahoma State passing onslaught. He emphasized that he sees them in practice and that they have been working hard to keep up with the OSU passing offense.

He complimented that offense in its design to not focus on one or two individuals but spread the ball out which almost always leads to a lot of offensive success. He also said that his young wide receivers would be ready. "We'll figure out who is the best and we'll throw those guys out there," he said.

The reporters really hammered Mullen on preparing for Oklahoma State's rapid offensive pace, this coming after Mullen said it was tough to prepare for because his defense sees a much different style of offense throughout camp and in the spring.

"It's tough but maybe you do some more drills that are speed oriented rather than execution oriented," said Mullen. "You speed those drills up to get them used to the tempo. We incorporate it into five or six different things that we do during practice."

On my radio show on Wednesday, I spoke with former Mississippi State quarterback Matt Wyatt. Wyatt was on the MSU teams that lost to Oklahoma State in Stillwater in 1998 and beat the Cowboys in Starkeville in 1999. He is now the color voice on the Mississippi State Bulldogs Radio Network, like the Cowboys Network a division of Learfield Sports.

Wyatt said he agrees with the perception of Cowboys fans that Mississippi State will try to pound it out on the ground offensively and play keep away from the OSU offense.

"You touched on it that offensively, all of your experience is in the run game," Wyatt said of the Bulldogs offense. "It is a really good group of running backs led by (LaDarius) Perkins, who is going to be a draft pick.

"On that offensive front, all five starters are guys that started every game, except for the right guard Justin Malone who started about half the games last season. Not a lot of depth but barring injury you are going to start five guys that played in every game or started every game last season. That is where the meat is, where the experience is.

"Outside looking in, that looks like that has to be the philosophy if Mississippi State wants a chance to win they have to run the ball successfully and they have to play keep away," continued Wyatt. "They aren't going to get in a shoot out with Oklahoma State. They have to give the ball to Perkins and I think you will see them try to keep the ball within the tackles."

On the defensive side, one of the aspects that has been noted was last season Mississippi State didn't disguise much. What they lined up in usually was the way they played, on the front end and the back end. Wyatt thinks that changes too with new defensive coordinator Geoff Collins, who actually took over calling the defense in the bowl loss to Northwestern.

"I thought last year you had two very good cornerbacks in Jonathan Banks, the Jim Thorpe Award winner, and on the other side Darius Slay, who was a second-round pick in the draft by Detroit," explained Wyatt. "I think what you had last season was a lot of confidence, sometime too much confidence that those guys would lock up on the outside that we don't have to fool you. Well, that turned out not to be the case against the better SEC teams."

A couple of thoughts many Cowboys fans had about Mississippi State, kind of confirmed by someone that sees them on a daily basis.

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