Mississippi State's Physicality A Concern

Rich Rodriguez took a sturdy stance on Monday, noting the strength of Mississippi State – and the strength and probability to play of quarterback Patrick White.

The junior quarterback is expected to start against Mississippi State. He is increasing his practice time has he continues to heal from a chest muscle strain and a thigh bruise. No. 9 WVU (5-1, 1-1 Big East) practiced Sunday night and will take today off before resuming heavy drills on Tuesday and Wednesday. White suffered the thigh bruise against South Florida and the chest muscle strain versus Syracuse. He did not play in the second half against USF and was limited to the initial two series of the third quarter against the Orange. It was the second drive in which he strained the muscle.

"We practiced last night and he was not 100 percent," Rodriguez said. "He did not do everything and he was not running around fully. But it's his non-throwing shoulder. He is still getting his strength back. He is better yesterday than the other day, and he still has several treatments to get. He should be able to (play). … We got a lot of work in on fundamentals. We got a little rest having two days off. We had to refocus and start all over again. With all the conference games coming up, it good week to get back to basics."

Rodriguez said the WVU coaching staff has been "very impressed" while watching Mississippi State. The Bulldogs (4-3) beat Auburn on the road and have lost to highly-ranked South Carolina and LSU in addition to traditional SEC power Tennessee. Rodriguez said it was the best team MSU head coach Sylvester Croom has had during his four-year tenure. The Alabama graduate has posted 3-8, 3-8 and 3-9 marks in his first three years, but seems to have built a solid foundation that is beginning to show results.

"They are very physical and have very physical skill players," Rodriguez said. "The defensive front is as good as anybody we have faced. They beat Auburn and played Tennessee down to the wire."

State was part of an effort by West Virginia to upgrade its schedule. The Mountaineers will play Auburn, Colorado, Michigan State and Florida State, among others, in coming years. Rodriguez said teams "schedule years in advance, usually four or five, sometimes seven or eight years in advance. We have done ours the last couple years to have attractive home and home games. There are some (Big East team schedules) that appear lighter than others, but if you look at other BCS conference teams, you have to question their conference instead of the Big East. If you look at the Big East schedule, it is very comparable.

"I think we did try to prove ourselves. Most of the teams have proven themselves in nonconference games. Ours is attractive and on a national scale. Each week you get to validate or put stamp on program. Obviously for South Florida, they get opportunities to do that and get attention. You can prove where you are at, and they have been a good program for the last few years. It speaks well for league. Coaches have been saying (the Big East was a solid BCS league) and it might prove they are correct in talking about the strength of the Big East."

The seventh-year coach was asked where he ranked teams. He declined to answer, but did say he would reveal his ballot at the end of the year.

"Who cares? Until the end of the season, what does it matter?" Rodriguez said. For me to comment on what people's opinions are of South Florida, hey, I don't care what people think of West Virginia until the end of the year. I will reveal my vote at the end of the year when I have to. Otherwise I will not reveal it. … (The upsets are) a combination of things. The parity, the proliferation of different types of schemes, the athletic quarterbacks that give you a chance where in the past that might not have happened. The variety and ingenouity of different offenses and defenses have contributed. The so-called upsets – as coaches we don't call them upsets because everybody has good players and coaches -- are in part because there are less secrets. You can find more players than ever before."

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