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For Whom the Mailbag Tolls: 18 More Days until Football Edition

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The mailbag tolls for thy questions.

mailbag

It’s time to open up the mailbag and see what is on everyone’s mind. There are a lot of questions this time so lets cut to the chase.

First up are the questions from JDog, aka Bunt Murphy. They weren’t the first questions I received, but when JDog asks a question, well...

Here, you’ll see what I mean.

Usually, I try to live by the motto of give the people what they want. That said...

Nah.

I’ll be honest, I have no idea what Hope Solo pics JDog is talking about. My guess is JDog was hoping I’d tweet back “What pictures?” And then he would send me a link. And after clicking on said link there would be a picture that would make me wish I had never been born. If you’re on Twitter and JDog sends you a link, don’t ever click on it.

EVER.

I’m not joking.

You’ll thank me later.

Moving on.

Ole Miss, and I don’t think it is even close. I am picking Alabama to win the West, but it wouldn’t surprise me if LSU runs the table. Their defense could be one of the best defenses LSU has ever fielded, and as long as they can keep Leonard Fournette rolling, they won’t need much out of Brandon Harris.

Ole Miss could be one of the best teams in the country or a big disappointment. I don’t know what they will be, so I’ll say Ole Miss.

Good question. I haven’t seen anyone else regularly dance on the sideline, so we need to look to someone with an outgoing personality. Brandon Holloway seems to fit that mold, so lets go with him.

This one is tough, because almost every major program has had some great runs in the last 10 to 15 year span, but they have also had some really awful years mixed in at that time as well. For example, the football team is on a 6 year bowl streak, something never done before in the history of the program, but it had the end of the Sherrill years and Croom years mixed in as well over the last 15.

Same thing for baseball. The beginning of the century was nice and the last four have been good, but the end of Polk’s second go round and the beginning of the Cohen era were pretty rough.

Men’s basketball is a bit different. From 2001- 2009, there were NCAA tournament appearances galore. But since then, the Bulldogs have come close to the NCAA under Rick Stansbury, and then it was awful under Rick Ray. But better times appear to be on the horizon.

And Women’s basketball has been pretty bleak for a while. They had a few nice years here and there in the early part of the turn of the century, but the last two seasons have been great, and the team might have their best seasons ever with the next two.

If you want to know when the real athletic renaissance is going to happen, look for next season. The Bulldogs have an opportunity to make incredible strides as a program in every major sport during the 2017-18 academic year.

The football team will be returning most of its key contributors from a team most expect to win 7 or 8 games during a rebuilding season in 2016. They could also add a top 15 or top 20 recruiting class to it, depending on how things go on Signing Day. The football team will have its best opportunity to win the West under Dan Mullen next season. It will probably be even better than 2014.

The Men’s basketball team is expected to be an NIT team this season and maybe a bubble team for the NCAA tournament. But they should return almost everyone in 2017-18, and if they do, they could be the best bet to rival Kentucky in the SEC.

The Women’s basketball team should be a top 10 team this season, maybe top 5. But they will still return most of their stars in 2017-18 and there might not be any program in the country better than the Bulldogs outside the state of Connecticut.

And the baseball team, despite the doom and gloom so many fans have displayed losing so many contributors from 2016, should still be a tournament team in 2017. In all likelihood, they’re a second seed with an outside chance to host if things play out in their favor. And the 2018 team will return most of the players from 2017.

If all four major programs can capitalize on their potential in 2017-18, then Mississippi State athletics is going to become a major player across the collegiate landscape.

Nick Fitzgerald has already become a fan favorite despite the fact he only has about one entire game’s worth of on-field play under his belt. He was a three star recruit who had a lot to learn about how to play Dan Mullen’s system. He had played wide receiver in high school up until his senior season which is when he made the switch to quarterback. His high school, at least it is my understanding, ran a triple option offense. What Dan Mullen does now has some similarities to the triple option, but they aren’t close enough to expect Fitzgerald to jump right in with a completely smooth transition.

If I know this, you can believe Dan Mullen and Nick Fitzgerald knew this as well. Fitz was recruited at the same time as Elijah Staley, a much more natural passer than Fitz was. Fitz knew the best way to get himself playing time was to graduate in the fall of 2013 and get on campus for spring practice. He was given a bonus gift when the Bulldogs won their final two games of the season in 2013 and made it to a bowl, something many people did not anticipate, so he was able to participate in bowl practices as well. All of this extra practice time gave Fitz the upper hand on landing the starting job when Dak Prescott graduated.

Nick Fitzgerald is the type of player Mississippi State fans could love easily. He’s a got a great work ethic, and he seems to be an incredible young man. Having said all that, and to answer John’s question...

YES!!!

Nick Tiano could absolutely take over the starting job without an injury to Fitz. Many Mississippi State fans have labeled Nick Fitzgerald a sure bet to come in and have immediate success. Some even believe he is going to make mince meat out of all Dak Prescott’s records.

He very well might do all of these things, but the extreme confidence some fans place in Fitzgerald is perplexing considering he has only thrown 14 passes and run the ball 23 times. And almost all of that came against Northwestern State and Troy.

I’m confident Fitzgerald will play well and be the starter. But I don’t think it is a certainty. Our friends at Auburn can tell us about assuming too much from a productive sample size which is too small. Jeremy Johnson completed 57 of 78 passes for 858 yards with 9 touchdowns and just 2 interceptions. That’s a much bigger sample size than Fitzgerald’s, and we all saw how that turned out for Auburn.

I’m not saying Nick Fitzgerald will be a repeat of Jeremy Johnson. I am saying there is a possibility, though unlikely, he could struggle some. If he does, it would open the door for Nick Tiano, a player most feel has more natural talent, to make plays and take the job.

For these two questions about Colin Cowherd, I’m going to refer you to what I wrote Monday. But I will say this. I’m pretty sure the only time Colin Cowherd ever watched Dak Prescott play was against Alabama, and he made up his mind about Dak. A stick of butter has never seen Dak play so would have no preconceived notions based off one game’s performance. So I’ll go with the stick of butter.

I’m going to answer both of these at the same time because they are somewhat related. Let’s take a look at the women’s team first for Kurt.

I have a harder time predicting the Women’s team win total simply because I don’t know what every other team in the SEC is bringing back in 2016-17. But I feel pretty confident they will have one of the best rosters in the SEC, so I would expect at least 25 wins in the regular season.

Predicting the men’s team win total is not an easy task either. I think NIT is a definite, and a chance to get to the NCAA is out there. The talent on this team is unmistakable as we all saw on the team’s trip to Italy. But they are still young so there are going to be head scratching moments at various times throughout the season. But I’ll put it somewhere around 20.

If Kegler hadn’t been cleared, 20 would have been a stretch. Kegler is going to offer a lot of versatility to Ben Howland, so having him eligible will make the Bulldogs far more dangerous than they would have been without him.

There’s no real easy answer to this, so I’ll give you multiple perspectives to look at it from.

Perspective number 1: If they haven’t separated because no one has played well, then it’s awful. If this is the reason why there has been no separation then it could be a long year.

Perspective number 2: If they haven’t separated because they have all played well, then it could be bad as well. If they all play well, then we are going to get a quarterback shuffle for who knows how long.

Perpsective number 3: If they haven’t separated because they have all played well, then it could be great because we are guaranteed to have at least one quarterback who should be capable of getting the job done.

Take your pick.

It depends on how much you like Last Chance U. If you’re a big fan of the show, it’s pretty significant. If you aren’t, then not very much.

I think most people who participate in the Egg Bowl Twitter wars already realize this. Sure, there are times people get carried away and go too far, but in general, I think most feel it’s just football smack talk. Yes there are some wackos out there, but they are much smaller supply than the people who just enjoy talking smack to each other.

But there is always going to be some tension between the fans so long as people get real personal about things. I think it is sad it sometimes gets that way, but it has happened in the past, and it will continue to happen in the future.

Thanks to all those who participated in this week’s For Whom the Mailbag Tolls. If you ever want to ask a question, you can find me on Twitter @JStrawnFWtCT.