Welcome back to the 2017 series of Cookin’ Up the Competition! Sorry about missing out on week one but I’m here now and that’s what really matters, right? I missed talking to myself. We’re kicking things off with Tanner Spearman from fellow SB Nation site Underdog Dynasty. Tanner also shot me a few questions over in his dojo, you can check that out here.
1) SEC schools don't often venture away from home this early in the season, especially not for non-Power 5 teams. What does it mean for LaTech and Ruston, LA to be hosting an SEC opponent on campus?
This isn't too unusual for Tech, but it means a lot to be on campus. In the past, Tech used to host these types of games in Independence Stadium in Shreveport, most recently Texas A&M in 2012. Tech has hosted plenty such games before, but to be on campus is a much better situation. Personally, I'd like to see more P5s venture to G5 stadiums, Tech or otherwise. We're all FBS, after all.
2) Coming off of a 9 win season featuring a conference championship appearance and a bowl game victory over Navy, what are the expectations for football in 2017 for LaTech?
The expectations are much of the same or better. Tech has won 9 games and a bowl the past three straight years, winning the west division two of those years. That's all fine and dandy, but after a while fans want improvement. The goals for this season are 10 wins, a conference title, and a win over an SEC school. (Fun nugget for State fans, Tech's last win over the SEC was 2011 in Oxford, 27-7 over Ole Miss)
3) Last week the red and blue Bulldogs hung 52 on Northwestern St. Can you educate MSU fans as to how this team plans on attacking a defense that has yet to allow a point in the 2017-18 season?
The offense is in kind of a transitional stage right now, trying to cope with the loss of serious playmakers from last season. 2016 Tech was one of the most prolific offenses college football has ever seen, with a 1000 yard back, two (2) 1500+ yard receivers, and a 4500+ yard QB. No offense has ever had that combination all at once. Well, RB Jarred Craft is back, but QB Ryan Higgins and WRs Trent Taylor and Carlos Henderson are gone, the latter two to the NFL. There is plenty of talent replacing them, but it's raw. The first three quarters against NSU showed that. Assuming all the pieces come together, expect a spread offense with a nice mixture of passing and running. You'll see bubble screens, deep passes, draw plays, QB runs, you name it. Tech probably held a lot of things back against NSU to not give State too much film, so be prepared for anything, really.
4) I like to be knowledgeable to those around me about the opposing teams that I'm watching on Saturday, so who are some names to watch for on the LaTech side of the ball?
As I mentioned before, senior RB Jarred Craft had a 1000 yard rushing season last year, but he's not alone. He is backed up by another senior, Boston Scott, who is known to be the explosive threat that will break a long one. QB J'Mar Smith is a dual threat guy who showed last year he isn't afraid of the SEC, scoring Tech's first touchdown of last season with his feet against Arkansas to give Tech a 7-0 lead early. There is plenty of depth at WR, but look out for Tulane transfer Teddy Veal, who is expected to be the favored target. He also serves as the punt returner, and got noticed by SportsCenter for his return TD last week. I'll also shoutout Jaqwis Dancy, a sophomore running back/kick returner who beat cancer last year and is back and ready to make noise, scoring a touchdown last week.
On defense, it all starts with junior DE Jaylon Ferguson, who had 14.5 sacks last season. Safety Secdrick Cooper, who missed last week with injury but will start vs Mississippi State, is the anchor in the secondary and was an understudy to Xavier Woods, now with the Cowboys.
5) Current lines have Mississippi State as 8 point favorites. Say you're a gambler, where are you putting your money Saturday?
Before last Saturday, I probably would have taken Tech. But comparing Tech's performance with State's, I'm not as sure now. If Tech plays all game the way they did in the 4th quarter against NSU, this will be a good game. If they start slow again, State will lap them.