davis wade stadium
Don't blink, the season will be over before you know it. We're almost a quarter of the way there as Mississippi State (1-1) welcomes FCS opponent Northwestern State (0-2) for a Week 3 showdown.
This week isn't about finding a way to win or avoiding an upset, but more about playing everybody down to the water boy. The starters shouldn't be in long against what is a very bad Northwestern State team.
The Demons were outscored a combined 81-37 by Southeastern Louisiana and UL Lafayette, thanks to an atrocious defense -- probably the worst MSU will face all season but we'll get to that in a minute.
Their offense hasn't helped matters any. The passing game has been nonexistent, and Northwestern State coach Jay Thomas still hasn't found a quarterback or even narrowed the candidates down to less than four people.
I'm not sure how hyped you can get for this one if you're Dan Mullen's team, but it presents a perfect opportunity for a confidence booster. A big win won't ease the pain of last week's gut-wrenching loss, but it would put everyone in a better state of mind before SEC play gets revved back up next week at Auburn.
Not only that, but tons of freshmen and redshirt freshmen need the reps going forward. Under normal circumstances they would have gotten those reps Week 1, but a competitive Southern Miss team prevented that from happening. It's important that the starters finally play strong out of the gate and build a first-quarter lead.
That shouldn't be a problem this week. Like I said earlier, Northwestern State isn't only a FCS team -- they're a pretty bad one.
Headlines to watch
Demons' struggling run defense
MSU has struggled to create holes for its running backs up to this point. But if they can't do it this week, I'll be at a loss for words. Northwestern State has allowed a whopping 400 yards a game on the ground. No, not total for the season. Per game. MSU hasn't had any luck running the ball. After averaging 233 yards last season, they have managed only 124 yards per game on the ground through two games. Hopefully they easily eclipse 300 Saturday. Shumpert should finally break off some long runs and Holloway might finish over 150 if he gets enough touches. Will we finally see more of Aeris Williams and Dontavian Lee?
A lot of interesting storylines taking place at the QB position. Northwestern State plans to start its third QB in as many games, and Thomas said he may send all four out there before it's all said and done. The player starting the game, J.D. Almond, is former high school teammates with Dak Prescott and pretty good friends as well. Almond played well in three series last week against Lafayette. One of their other QB candidates, Stephen Rivers, is looking to play his third game in Starkville with the third different team. Rivers was at LSU in 2013 and Vanderbilt in 2014. He's also the younger brother of San Diego Chargers QB Phillip Rivers, and Stephen was recruited by MSU out of high school.
On the Mississippi State side of things, Dan Mullen wants to play redshirt freshmen Elijah Staley and Nick Fitzgerald behind center. Fitzgerald played a few snaps against Southern Miss but Staley will be getting his first career action. The battle for the #2 spot behind Dak Prescott is still ongoing and Saturday is the first step in establishing a pecking order. If the game gets out of hand, I wouldn't expect to see Dak past the middle of the second quarter.
Keeping the shutout streak alive
MSU and Northwestern State have faced off only twice in their history, with the Dogs taking both games by a combined score of 81-0 (credit to Robbie Faulk for tweeting that out). The teams haven't played each other since 1946. Will we see a Ole Miss type performance and rack up 70 plus points? Probably not. But it will be nice to finally see 45 to 55 points go up on the board (hopefully). We thought we would get that Week 1 against Southern but it didn't happen. The offense needs a breakout game in the worst kind of way. Hopefully the defense compliments that with another shutout.
Prediction: MSU- 52 Northwestern State- 3