While it all but certain Mississippi State will improve to 1-1 in a few hours against Alcorn State, there are several stories to keep an eye on during the game that could have a tremendous impact for the rest of the season.
1. Could a quarterback controversy swing into full gear in Starkville?
Some fans would say a quarterback controversy has already started in Starkville, and in some respects that is true. There was a small, but vocal, percentage of the fan base that clamored for Dak Prescott to be the starting quarterback after the Bulldogs lost to Northwestern in the Gator Bowl.
After the dismal performance of the Mississippi State offense against Oklahoma State last weekend, the group started to grow in number and in sound. With Tyler Russell missing the start against Alcorn State due to a concussion, that group will get their wish, even it is for one day only.
However, the question is, will it be for one day only?
There are a few known items about this situation that will make this interesting to watch in the coming days or weeks:
- Concussions are very hard to judge. While it would seem that Russell should be good to go against Auburn next weekend, he may very well still show symptoms, leading to another start for Prescott.
- Prescott should have a field day against the Braves this week. Under Dan Mullen, the Bulldogs have routinely drubbed such opponents, and nothing gives any indication that this matchup will be any different.
- As Metal Building Dawg so aptly put earlier this week, the senior season for Mississippi State quarterbacks have rarely gone as planned. Even looking back to Chris Relf's final year in Starkville, the senior started to lose ground to an emerging Russell.
The longer Russell has to sit because of injury, the more the opportunity grows for Prescott to take over the starting position. The only scenario that could head off a potential controversy, would be one that sees Russell return in a big way against Auburn next week. (There is another one, but who wants to think Prescott having a rough game against Alcorn....)
If Prescott shines against the Braves, and if he has to start against Auburn and he plays well, Mullen will have a difficult decision to make. If Prescott plays well against the Braves, and if Russell struggles against Auburn, Mullen will have a difficult decision to make.
One thing to remember, keeping perspective is very important in this situation. Alcorn State was picked to finish last in the SWAC West this year. Results from this game may not be indicative of future success.
2. How will the young players look today?
The injury bug bit Mississippi State hard against Oklahoma State, and as a result, many younger players will be making their first career start or be seeing significant playing time for the first time in their careers today. While this game will be far from a predictor of future success, it will be interesting to watch how the players perform in an increased role on the field.
3. Will the little things go the right way against Alcorn State?
The Bulldogs suffered from multiple miscues against the Cowboys. Whether it was false starts, missed blocks or what appeared to be delays receiving a play, Mississippi State looked to be uncertain and disheveled for most of the contest. The pressure should be off a bit against Alcorn, so those issues should go away. If they do not, be worried Bulldog fans.