We’re back cookin’ again and so is Mississippi State football. The Dawgs are 2-0 going into what could be a season-defining matchup against LSU under the lights in Starkville this Saturday and what better way to get ready for the game than a Q&A with And The Valley Shook, our favorite SB Nation sponsored LSU blog! Billy Gomila was brazen enough to proclaim himself as an expert in the purple and gold, so I decided to play along and sent him some questions. (We did the same over on their site, check it out here.) Our conversation:
1) LSU and Mississippi State's rivalry seems to have begun to even out a little over recent years, featuring some outstandingly dramatic games over the last three years, specifically in '14 and '15. Do LSU fans still feel the Bulldogs are still the football cellar-dwellers of of the SEC West or are attitudes starting to change?
Billy: Well, I'm not sure one win since the turn of the century means the rivalry is really evening out that much. It's a tough game, sure, but we generally expect that in this conference, to be honest. Most LSU fans recognize that Dan Mullen has done about as good of a job as can be expected at State, but there's still a gap. Although this year, it seems that Texas A&M and Arkansas may be worse than both Mississippi schools.
2) As for household names on the roster, the list stops for LSU at Derrius Guice. What are some other names Bulldog fans should look out for Saturday night?
B: If Arden Key isn't a household name for State fans, he certainly is for the Bulldogs after spending most of last year's game in Nick Fitzgerald's lap. He'll be back in the lineup this week. As for some other players to watch -- sophomore linebacker Devin White and freshman cornerback Andraez "Greedy" Williams look like the next batch of studs on LSU's defense. And senior wideout D.J. Chark is starting to really blossom as the go-to receiver here.
3) Last time Ed Orgeron was in Starkville as a Head Coach was the 2007 Egg Bowl where he watched MSU stun Ole Miss by scoring 17 unanswered for the win. Not necessarily relevant to the question here, just wanted that on the record. What is the general attitude from the LSU fanbase toward Orgeron and what do fans expect to see from him in his first full season as HC?
B: Orgeron has a lot of support, but at a program like LSU every coach is always a little tenuous. He did a great job last year taking over for Les Miles, and I think between that and the job he did as an interim coach at USC, he's shown a unique willingness to grow and learn from his disastrous stint at Ole Miss. And that's rare for coaches, I think. He's committed to hiring the best assistants and recruiting like a madman, and that's generally a recipe to succeed here.
4) If LSU wins on Saturday, how do you see the rest of the season playing out for the Tigers? And if they lose?
B: I think the reality is we're all still trying to catch up to Alabama, and that doesn't change this Saturday. LSU is really young this year and still had a rough going over the rest of the year, so I think a championship is too much to ask. But a 10-win season could be there, especially if they pass this first test.
5) Vegas currently has the line for Saturday listed as MSU being 7.5 point underdogs at home. Who are you putting your money on and how sweaty is you bet going to make you?
B: I've never been a betting man, but I do like this matchup for LSU. The Tigers' speed on defense will help them contain Fitzgerald, and Matt Canada's offense is kind of tailor-made to frustrate a defense like the one Todd Grantham deploys. Seeing La. Tech have some success on the ground also gives me some confidence with what Derrius Guice is capable of.