Peeps, week two of the season is upon us. The Dawgs will welcome the UAB Blazers to Starkville on Saturday afternoon. Here's some things the Dawgs will need to do in order to come away victorious:
1. Run. The. Football. Mississippi State ran 78 plays against USM last week. Of those plays, State had 44 rushes and 34 passes. That's a 56/44 run/pass ratio. I'd like to see that increase to at least 60%, but preferably closer to 65%. Of the last 7 national champs from the SEC, only one ran the ball less than 63% of the time on its offensive possessions. Start early and make the UAB athletes tired of trying to tackle Josh Robinson, Ashton Shumpert, and Nick Griffin. Let your big OL lean on UAB's DL, which only averages about 245 pounds. We have a huge mismatch in the trenches, so exploit it.
2. More Explosive Plays in the Passing Game. I want to see us hit more plays of 25+ yards this week. Weather may have hampered that a little last week. But the forecast looks nice this week, so I want to see us hit more plays for big chunks of yards. You aren't going to be consistent offensively and beat the elite teams by needing to drive 10+ plays to score all the time. We need to get better getting chunks of yards, so open it up and take some shots this week.
3. Tackle. The Dawgs were great in this department as a whole last week. I saw very, very few missed tackles. The ones I did see were a case of the first man going for a strip instead of wrapping up and letting the second guy try to strip. UAB wants to run the ball, so we need to be sound fundamentally tackling. Wrap up, get them on the ground, and limit YAC. Force them to drive the field and not get chunks of yards.
4. Generate Pressure With the Front Four. This is another area where State was good against USM. Our 2-deep DL rotated the entire night and everyone got good push. Preston Smith wreaked absolute havoc and Chris Jones broke through for a nice sack. It allowed us to drop the back 7 in coverage and not blitz much. We need to see that trend continue. That's the one area from 2013 defensively that needed significant improvement this year.
5. Don't Contract Ebola. Ok, I'm partially joking here. I think we all know this is a game that the Dawgs should not only win, but win going away. We need to stay healthy, particularly on the OL. That said, we came out of the USM game fine outside of a couple of dings. We've got plenty of depth, but you'd rather not have to test it early in the season. But a rash of injuries can derail any team. Ask 2013 Florida if I'm joking.
That's how I see what needs to happen. My best guess is this game plays out similar to last week. UAB makes it close for somewhere in the neighborhood of a quarter, maybe as long as a half. Eventually, our superior talent and depth take over, leading to a big win. We start clearing the bench mid-3rd quarter and win with a final of something like 49-7.