With kickoff only a few hours away, here are some thoughts from Rod Gilmore, who will be calling the action today, on the matchup between Mississippi State and Oklahoma. Rod joined me on the Daily Grind Thursday, and if you want to hear the whole interview, grab the app and take advantage of the on-demand feature.
How important is this game to both Oklahoma State and Mississippi State?
I think it is a big game for both teams, but also, I think it is a big game for college football. To have opening weekend where we have significant games between the Big 12 and SEC and the ACC and the SEC, that's huge. These types of games are the types of games fans want to see.
For Oklahoma State, clearly it's a huge game. They're considered to be one of the top teams in the Big 12. If that's who you are, you need to play really, really well against a team that has been in the middle of the pack in the SEC. If you are Mississippi State, you're carrying the flag for the SEC and it's great reputation. You won eight games last season, but you didn't finish really strong. You would like to get off to great start, so I think it all shapes up for a great weekend.
On the national perception of Mississippi State
I think the perception is that Mullen has done a good job turning the program around, and they have hit that point where they're close. They haven't gotten over the hump, but they're close. They've been to January 1 bowl games. They've had eight and nine win season. They are right there, but they are also in a division where it is hard to see how quickly they could jump over LSU, Alabama and A&M. They have to find a way to break through. It's not going to be easy, but they are in the toughest division in college football.
On Oklahoma State and their quarterback situation:
It is a little bit surprising that we are going to see both quarterbacks for Oklahoma State. Coming out of spring practice, it was clear to everyone we thought that Clint Chelf was their guy. He was the MVP of their bowl game, and he played at the end of the year.
We've been told that they have both in even in practice and that the experience factor was even, so they are going to let it go for tow or three games and see if someone will win the job. We will see them both in the ball game.
How to matchup against Oklahoma State's wide receivers:
You start with Josh Stewart, but you can't really only focus on him because on the other side, they get Tracey Moore back, who is an outstanding receiver. How do you roll your coverage to Steward and leave Moore in a single coverage situation? I don't know if you want to do that.
I think the key for Mississippi State is going to be upfront and how they do with their defensive line and getting a pass rush on Oklahoma State. They have to generate more pressure than they did last season. They have to find a way to bring pressure. The problem is they get the ball out so quickly at Oklahoma State.
You have to find a way to Oklahoma State in third and long situation where they have to hold the ball a bit and get pressure.
Where does Mississippi State maybe have an advantage?
That is the one thing where you initially go "maybe Mississippi State has a little advantage there," and it is based on the style of play. Oklahoma State typically does not see a power rushing attack out of the Big 12. They don't run up against it on a regular basis, which means they can't practice against it on a regular basis.
They have had the entire offseason to prepare for it, but it is a different style and a different pace.
On what Mississippi State has to do to have a chance to win:
I think the most important thing for Mississippi State is dealing with this tempo. It's hard to practice against it and get the sense for how fast teams like Oklahoma State or Oregon run their offense. To be able to stay calm and not get stressed and to communicate to one another out there to get your defense set and to get your plays called, that is the difficult thing. You can become frustrated or lose your composure, and when that happens, they hit you for a big play.
I think that is the most critical thing and making sure they don't give up cheap touchdowns and big plays by not being prepared and aligned.
Secondarily, how do the young corners match up with two outstanding wide receivers for Oklahoma State? How much help do you have to give them? If you play zone coverage and double those receivers, Oklahoma State can run the football at you, so you have to find a way to pick your battles.