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An Interview With Johnthan Banks

I had the opportunity to talk with current starting cornerback for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, former All-American, Jim Thorpe Award winner, and MSU legend, Johnthan Banks. He answered questions about tomorrow’s big game, MSU’s secondary problems, and even gave his predictions for the playoff.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Charlie Burris: I know you've followed the team closely all year. As a Mississippi native and someone who played a big role in laying the foundation for this year's team, how does it make you feel to know you had a part in building what is happening with the team now and what are your thoughts on this season as a whole?

Johnthan Banks: It's really great knowing I helped build the program up. We had a fantastic season. I mean, we wanted to win that game there at the end of season but it's hard to win 10 football games. I'm so proud of coach Mullen and the job he's done and how he's leading guys at Mississippi State, trusting them to win in his system. It's really working for him and I hope he's around for a long time. I'm just so proud of this team and how good they've done this year.

CB: What was your favorite game or specific moment from this season?

JB: My favorite game this season was the LSU game. Mississippi State hadn't beaten LSU in like 11 or 12 years (CB: actually 14, but who's counting?) and just going into Death Valley and coming out with a win, that was the highlight of the season.

CB: Moving on to tomorrow's game, Georgia Tech runs an excellent triple option offense. How do you think State's defense will fare against Tech's offensive attack?

JB: I think we'll matchup well. We got those big guys down in the trenches, guys like Chris Jones, Preston Smith, Kaleb Eulls, AJ Jefferson, Ryan Brown. I think those guys can handle it. I mean, we come out there ready to play and I don't think we should have a problem with the triple option.

CB: MSU finished second in the SEC West as a team but our pass defense finished dead last in the SEC and seemed to be the weakest spot for our defensive unit. As a former All-American in MSU's secondary, what do think was their main problem and what can they do to improve?

JB: I'm not going to say they were the weak spot on the defense but there were a lot of concerns. But I think those guys still held up great. They played as a team, they played great defense. They kept people out of the end zone, they held them to field goals and that's what you want to do. I mean, you don't want people to score points but they get down in the red zone, you want to hold them to field goals and I think that's what our defense did. And I can't bash my guys cause I love those guys. So, they're just going to keep working and keep getting better over there.

CB: What do you think will be the outcome of the game?

JB: Mississippi State 38, Georgia Tech 17.

CB: I'd like to know what you think about the playoff. How do you feel about the playoff structure this year? Do you think it was fair, should it be expanded?

JB: I think it's a great system. I do think it should maybe be expanded to eight teams. But I think it was a great idea to make the playoff instead of just going out there and picking two teams.

CB: There was a lot of controversy between TCU, Baylor, and Ohio State. Did you think Ohio State was the right team to put in the fourth spot?

JB: Yeah, I think they got the right teams. Who's to say who was the better team? They all lost one game. Ohio State was hot, TCU was hot, Baylor was hot and it just came down to, it was a toss up. So, I think they made a good decision with Ohio State.

CB: I want to get some bowl predictions from you, if that's cool...

CB: Music City Bowl: LSU-Notre Dame?

JB: I'm taking LSU. I'm an SEC guy but I think LSU is the better football team just because of their particular style of play and the way they finished up the season. They got better and better after the Mississippi State game, they played Alabama down to the wire, they beat Ole Miss. I'm taking LSU.

CB: Chick-Fil-A Bowl: Ole Miss-TCU?

JB: That's a tough one. I mean, Ole Miss has a great defense, TCU has a great offense so it's going to be a fist fight. I think it'll come down to the 4th quarter and I'm taking TCU over Ole Miss.

CB: Rose Bowl: Florida State-Oregon?

JB: That's going to be a tough one. Florida State has a great quarterback, Oregon has a great quarterback but I think it'll come down to who gets the most stops and I think Florida State has a better defense than Oregon so I'm going with Florida State.

CB: Allstate Sugar Bowl: Alabama-Ohio State?

JB: Most definitely Alabama. They have coach Saban, he has those guys prepared in big games. They turned it on after the Ole Miss loss and their defense has played outstanding. And their quarterback Blake Sims and Amari Cooper have found a way to connect all year and I don't think Ohio State has a guy who can match up with them. And I don't think Ohio State will be able to stop that powerful run game.

CB: National Championship: Alabama-Florida State?

JB: I think Alabama over Florida State because of their defense. They'll get a lot of pressure on Jameis Winston and make him get rid of the ball. I see Jameis throwing a bunch of interceptions. He's a great quarterback but I'm going to take Alabama over Florida State.

CB: To wrap up I have a couple of miscellaneous questions about the Bucs and your time at MSU. You had a great year with the Bucs in 2014, 41 tackles, 4 interceptions, and a pick six, to you what's been the biggest difference playing in the NFL from your time at MSU?

JB: Just going out and knowing that everybody is good. In college you have one, maybe two good receivers but in the pros, everybody on the team is good. And just treating the pro game as a job. In college it's serious but it's not that serious. In the pros it's very serious and you have to treat it as a job.

CB: What would you say was your greatest moment at Mississippi State?

JB: My greatest moment at Mississippi State was getting two pick-sixes on Tim Tebow as a freshman.

CB: Finally, I know you've been working with Capital One, the title sponsor of the Orange Bowl, leading up to the game, what all are you doing with them?

JB: Well, this is one of the great bowl games in college football. The Capital One Orange Bowl will be part of the College Football Playoff next year. I think that speaks volumes for how big of a bowl game it is. And tomorrow from 3:30 to 4:30pm EST, I will be right outside of Sun Life Stadium at the Capital One Orange Bowl Fan Fest.  Signing autographs, taking pictures, whatever there is to do, I'm going to do it. So, for all the fans who are going to be in Miami, make sure you come see me tomorrow from 3:30 to 4:30.

Mississippi State plays Georgia Tech in the Capital One Orange Bowl tomorrow at 7:00pm CST on ESPN.