Dak Prescott electrified Starkville, Miss., more than any individual since Thomas Edison — or in Starkville’s case, whomever might have been the top electrical mind to come a generation or two after Edison. (We kid, Dog fans, we kid).
But the Dak Attack is now coming to you from Dallas on NFL Sundays, leaving an enormous void to fill for a program looking to continue an unprecedented run of success with its seventh straight bowl appearance.
We talked to Michael Bonner, the Mississippi State beat reporter at The (Jackson, Miss.) Clarion-Ledger, to try and figure out where the Bulldogs are as they come to Tiger Stadium on Saturday night and look to win in consecutive appearances in Death Valley for the first time since 1981 and ’83.
Q: It’s Year 1 AD (After Dak) in Starkville. Everyone expects a massive dropoff from the Dogs, and it showed in the second half of Week 1 (a 21-20 loss to South Alabama). Do they have enough remaining talent to recover and get back to a bowl game for the seventh straight year?
MB: I think they have enough talent to recover now that they’ve found a quarterback. I thought they would go 6-6 this season. One of those wins was South Alabama, though. I think there’s an opportunity to grab an upset later in the season to get back on track. The Bulldogs have to split their meetings with BYU Auburn, Texas A&M and Arkansas and they should be able to get to a bowl.
Q: After going with two quarterbacks Week 1, Dan Mullen stuck with Nick Fitzgerald last week. How does he differ from Damian Williams and is he the guy going forward?
MB: Nick Fitzgerald should be the guy going forward. The only reason for a switch now is if Fitzgerald really struggles and MSU turns to redshirt freshman Nick Tiano. Fitzgerald offers Mississippi State big-play potential. He can cash in on big plays down the field. Fitzgerald is also more likely to turn the ball over, though. Williams is a game manager.
Q: MSU is allowing 2.1 yards per rush. Is this a product of opponent, or the sign of a very stout run defense capable of giving even Leonard Fournette trouble?
MB: I think the front seven is the strength of MSU’s defense, but they haven’t played strong competition yet. We’ll definitely know more about MSU’s ability to stop the run after this week. That being said, Mississippi State has the personnel to at least contain Fournette. It did a good job last year barring a couple runs. The problem was Fournette was responsible for all three of LSU’s touchdowns.
Q: Kivon Coman is getting a lot of guff for saying Tiger Stadium isn’t hard to play in, but why should he or any other Bulldog think otherwise? And how confident are they heading back to a place where they won last time out?
MB: You’re right, there isn’t any reason. He said what any player would say. And in his defense, the only time he’s played in Baton Rouge, he won. I think because of that win, MSU is confident heading into its matchup with LSU, probably more than most would expect.
Q: Not a question, but a fill-in-the-blank with however many words you want. Defensive end A.J. Jefferson is ______
MB: A.J. Jefferson is one of the best quotes at Mississippi State.
Bonner’s Prediction: LSU 23, Mississippi State 16