Here’s a short question-and-answer I did with Brandon Marcello, the Mississippi State beat writer for the Jackson Clarion-Ledger. Hopefully he can give us a little perspective from the other sideline when those Bulldogs visit the Georgia Bulldogs on Saturday. . . .
1. Give us the lowdown on Dan Mullen. Is he really as brash and cocky as he seems or is he actually a warm and fuzzy guy behind the scenes?
“Dan Mullen is a very smart coach, and listening to him talk Xs and Os, I hear, is an interesting and insightful sight. The players love him and he’s definitely a hard worker. His enthusiasm and off-the-cuff comments (referring to Ole Miss as “the school up north” and saying whatever is on his mind) has excited the fan base, while riling up the detractors at opposing schools. For the longest time, MSU fans have desired to be the school everyone envied and now Mullen is telling those fans that, hey, it’s cool to be a Bulldog fan living in Starkville. Fans have not heard that in a while, and it certainly has provided fans and the administration a shot in the arm the last few years.”
2. What’s the general satisfaction level of the fan base? Certainly the 9-win season last year was well received but it appears they’ve struggled within the division outside Mississippi? Is there any sense of desperation not to start 0-3 in the SEC?
“There is a sense of desperation from fans. Some understand that the injuries on the offensive line have truly thrown cold water on the hot-as-fire expectations entering the season. The loss to Auburn, more than anything, was disheartening. That was a game State was expected to win by double digits, and to lose the way the Dogs did at the goal line was yet another “Here we go” moment for the fans, who are still trying to wash away the 3-8 seasons of the past.
“I don’t believe fans should let go of that hope, though. I really like what I’ve seen from this team on offense and, yes, defense. They have a chance Saturday and in future games. Home games against South Carolina and Alabama could still define the season.”
3. Who would you say is the best player Georgia fans know nothing about?
“Rarely anyone ever talks about MSU’s defense, and for that fact I’m going to go with cornerback Johnthan Banks. He has interceptions in the last three games, and he saved a possible game-winning touchdown in the fourth quarter with a pick in the end zone Saturday against Louisiana Tech. Banks and Corey Broomfield, both juniors, have combined for six interceptions returned for touchdowns, and they seemingly have changed the complexion of every game when they make those big plays. Watch out for Banks.”
4. Where would you say the Maroon Dogs have a clear advantage in Saturday’s matchup? Conversely, where do you give Georgia the edge?
“I believe MSU has an advantage in the cornerback vs. receiver battle, though I suspect State will back off in coverage at times to confuse QB Aaron Murray. As mentioned above, MSU’s corners are ball hawks.
“Georgia has a big advantage on its defensive line. As Mullen put it, Georgia’s D-line might just be the biggest in the nation.
“State is still regrouping after a season-ending injury to right guard Tobias Smith, and starting left tackle James Carmon (out the last two weeks with a knee injury) is expected to return Saturday. Carmon, though, will likely line up at guard to give MSU some weight in the middle. If that happens, Quentin Saulsberry will be able to move from guard back to center, leaving just one redshirt freshman (LT Blaine Clausell) starting on the offensive line. Experience was in short supply in recent weeks, but Carmon’s addition should help.”
5. How do you deal with the cowbell thing? Ear plugs? Bose headphones?
“One of the first tweets I fired off from the Scott Field press box when I arrived on the beat last season concerned the loud cowbells. I sounded like a cranky old man, blindsided by the headache-inducing metal-on-metal clangs. Never missing a beat, the Bulldog fans made sure to let me have it on Twitter. And, yes, deservedly so.
“Let me tell you this: Those cowbells are much louder in the press box than the field. With their cowbells raised high, all of the sound goes up. But, heck, I’m young and I’ve grown to love it, actually. I think it’s a cool tradition and I love how the fans have embraced it as others outside Starkville and the state constantly turn their nose to what really is a unique and underrated fan celebration.
6. Some final thoughts?
“I believe the game is going to be close, but with MSU’s overtime win last week against Louisiana Tech, I can understand why others will disagree with my take. As for what the Mississippians think of Georgia? Heck, I believe they’re way too concerned about their own team to be worry about the Bulldogs of Athens. Great party town, though.
“Kidding aside, this will be a close one with one team’s defense stepping up with a couple of turnovers to change the complexion of the game. Georgia has the home crowd, the advantage on the defensive front and a freshman running back (Isaiah Crowell) who can pound the ball with some punishing, game-sealing runs late in games. On paper, you have to go with Georgia in this one.”