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Mississppi State vs South Alabama: 5 Questions with Underdog Dynasty

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This week, we caught up with Brian Wright of fellow SB Nation blog, Underdog Dynasty, to look at the Mississippi State-South Alabama matchup.

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This week, two undefeated squads square off as Mississippi State travels to Mobile to face South Alabama.  We caught up with Bryan Wright over at Underdog Dynasty to help us know some more about the South Alabama Jaguars:

1) How big of a game is this for South Alabama? It sounds like the whole area is excited for the contest.

This is a huge game for South Alabama. In only their sixth season of football and their second season as a full member of FBS, to be hosting an SEC team in Mobile is huge. Many fans have had this game circled on their calendars since the 2-for-1 series was announced a few years ago. A good showing in this game would go a long way in recruiting efforts and selling more season tickets.


2) Last year, the Jaguars suffered several close losses. Is this team one that can get over the hump in some of those close games?

Yes, I think this is the team that can and will find ways to win some of those close games. I think we saw them start to make it over the hump in the final three games last season culminating in a 30-8 win over conference co-champion Louisiana-Lafayette, though they were without their starting quarterback. They started their season off this year with a strong defensive effort against Kent State and closed it out with a game-sealing touchdown and interception in the final minute-and-a-half.

3) What will Bulldog fans see out of the Jaguars on offense and defense?

The Jags have a deep and quite talented wide receiver corps. They have two guys who were signed by Alabama out of high school who transferred to South Alabama that give the Jags some real homerun threats along with Shavarez Smith. Offensively they return all but two starters and like to spread the field and use a hurry-up offense.

Defensively they graduated several players in their front five or six but with a deep rotation, they return several players who are experienced playing in their 4-2-5 scheme. The entire secondary returns with additional depth this season. Dating back to last season, the Jags have held opponents under 300 yards of total offense in their last four outings.


4) The South Alabama football program is less than a decade old. How has this program gone from scratch to being in the running for winning a conference title this year?

Head coach Joey Jones came into this job with prior experience starting a program from scratch. He was hired at Birmingham Southern to restart their program and he learned quite a bit from that experience. He also talked with other programs who started from scratch to see what they did right and what they would have done different. Jones visited and spoke at length with Florida Atlantic's coach Schnellenberger and South Florida's Jim Leavitt about their experiences starting their respective programs.

Jones and his staff were able to recruit players early with the ability to play all five years (college players have five years to play four) since their first two seasons they were an NCAA Unclassified program. Several seniors last year and this year are playing their fifth year in the program. It also helps being in a hot-bed of recruiting in Mobile and national exposure with strong games against NC State, Mississippi State and most recently Tennessee.


5) How to Jaguar fans feel about this game becoming a trendy upset pick, and what does South Alabama need to do to make it happen?

Fans are latching onto the upset picks and running with it. The hard-core fans believe that USA has a great chance at an upset and casual fans like to pull for the underdog.

In order to make an upset happen, the Jaguars have to stay fresh and not allow the size differential wear them down. Which means the players need to stay healthy and the coaches need keep rotating players to keep them fresh.

South Alabama cannot afford to turn over the ball to Mississippi State. The defense needs to generate turnovers and the offense must move the ball to rest the defense and put points on the board. The Bulldogs average 40+ points and 500+ yards per game so far this season so they have to answer a score with a score. They feel that if they can keep the game close into the fourth quarter they have what it takes to pull off the upset.