Earlier this week, I exchanged interview questions with the proprietor of For Whom the Cowbell Tolls, SB Nation’s Mississippi St. Bulldogs weblog. My responses to his questions are posted at his site. His responses to my questions appear below:
Dawg Sports: Dan Mullen has brought renewed energy to the Mississippi State program and has made the Bulldogs more competitive in the SEC. However, the man who helped Urban Meyer build a fearsome offense in Gainesville has Mississippi State sitting at 11th in the conference in scoring offense. Why hasn’t the Bulldog O been more productive?
For Whom the Cowbell Tolls: I think the biggest reason is the absence of Anthony Dixon. With Dixon in the NFL, we are missing a go-to offensive playmaker. We are using a committee of running backs that each have various strengths and weaknesses. We have a young group of receivers and rotate between a quarterback that can run the ball but not throw as well, and a quarterback that can throw a football spot on, but can't run.
We have also faced two pretty stiff defensive teams in Auburn and LSU.
Dawg Sports: Speaking of whom, the Bulldogs appeared solid on defense while holding high-powered Auburn to 17 points and limiting LSU to four field goals through almost 40 minutes of play last weekend. What accounts for such dramatic improvement in the Mississippi State D, which ranked 11th in the SEC in scoring defense in 2009?
For Whom the Cowbell Tolls: Defense has always been the big feature of our football team - even through the dismal Croom years. They have definitely helped put us in a position to win several games we should have had no chance at.
This year, we have 2 new defensive co-coordinators. After Carl Torbush left to join Turner Gill's staff at Kansas, Mullen hired Manny Diaz from Middle Tennessee and Chris Wilson from Oklahoma. Diaz runs a fast defense that will blitz from any and every direction. Combine that with weak offensive outing by Auburn and LSU and there you have it.
Dawg Sports: Mississippi State has turned the ball over a league-high eight times and has thrown a conference-worst seven interceptions. Why haven’t the Bulldogs been able to do a better job of protecting the football, and what role do you believe turnovers will play in Saturday night’s showdown?
For Whom the Cowbell Tolls: I think this goes back to the youth of our offense and the strength of the opposing defense. In many of those interventions, receivers were defended well or were rushed to make a play. One interception by LSU was just a weird coincidence of a lineman being in the right place at the right time.
Dawg Sports: Although Mississippi State, like Georgia, has a live bulldog mascot, Bully lacks the national notoriety of Uga, who has attended a Heisman Trophy presentation, appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated, and had a cameo in a movie directed by Clint Eastwood. State your case for why Bully deserves the same acclaim as Uga.
For Whom the Cowbell Tolls: Because he is prettier? Seriously though, I think Uga gets more attention because Georgia has had more national exposure as a program (rankings, Heisman winners, etc.)
Dawg Sports: Because the SEC’s two sets of Bulldogs play only occasionally, many among the Georgia faithful are unfamiliar with this weekend’s opponent. Tell us about two Mississippi State players we may not know about now, but whose names we will be cursing before Saturday night ends.
For Whom the Cowbell Tolls: Pernell McPhee - defensive lineman that wreaks havoc on opposing teams. He is big, fast, physical, and will play from pretty much any spot on the d-line.
Charles Mitchell - a DB with lots of speed and the ability to interrupt offensive plays in the secondary.
My thanks go out to For Whom the Bell Tolls for taking part in this exchange. As we look forward to tonight’s showdown, I’m sure we can both agree that we hope to see a Bulldog victory!