Q&A: For Whom The Cowbell Tolls

Jeremy Flint runs the Mississippi State blog for SB Nation, and we exchanged questions this week for the upcoming 'Bama v. MSU game. Check over at For Whom the Cowbell Tolls tomorrow for our responses, but for now here is what he had to say for our questions:

Explain your offense to me. When I watch it I basically see an traditional I-formation team masquerading as a spread option team. It seems to like Mullen is trying to run the spread option, but is limited by the type of player he currently has. Is that right, or am I completely off base here?

I think you are on the right track there. Mullen does run a spread offense. He has said that from the beginning. But he has also preached adapting the scheme to the talent at hand (a concept that Croom never seemed to grasp). Mullen knew that we were shallow on wide receivers, so he adapted his offense to make Dixon the feature. So I guess in that way, it does resemble a traditional i-formation.

The off week seemingly came at a pretty good time for you guys, and a few players were banged up. Who is still hurt, will they play against 'Bama, and if so will they be 100%?

We have a few guys that are banged up. Christian Ducree is probable. He messed his knee up against Kentucky. If he is out, we lose a running back who is also a good option for short pass yardage. We have a couple of offensive linemen out too, but I think they are existing injuries and haven't played much this year anyway.

Javier Arenas made a big play in the return game last year, much to Sylvester Croom's chagrin, and I notice that MSU is once again near the bottom of the nation in net punting against this year. How do you expect MSU to try to limit Arenas in the return game this year?

Probably by not kicking to him. But seriously, we will just have to get good  pressure on the returns and make sure we can contain him down field. That is easier said than done against someone like Arenas, who seems to specialize in kick returns for touchdowns.

Given the rebuild of the MSU defensive backfield, how do you expect to see your Bullies play Alabama defensively?

I think our play at the line is as strong as it has ever been. Pernell McPhee, K.J. Wright and Kyle Love are doing a superb job. The linebackers are playing great as well. Jamar Chaney is back thanks to a medical red shirt after breaking his leg against LaTech last season. The area we are really hurting is our secondary. Losing Pegues and Fitzhugh took out a lot of speed and the guys back there right now aren't quite as fast. Freshman Jonathan Banks has stepped in place of Zach Smith at safety. He had 2 huge interceptions against Florida.

Name a few guys that really stand out to you that we might not notice. Anyone we really need to keep our eyes on this Saturday, aside from the obvious like Dixon?

On offense, keep an eye on Chad Bumphis. He is a true freshman and has really made some plays for us this year. Also watch out for Leon Berry on kick returns. He has been putting us in a good position all year long. Oneil Wilder has made a splash at receiver as well.

On defense, Pernell McPhee is a monster at right tackle. He has been named defensive potw once this year already. He plays hard on every down. Freshman Jonathan Banks is doing well at the safety position as well.

For whatever reason, despite 'Bama leading this series historically in lopsided fashion, it has also seemed to me like we struggle against MSU more than just about anyone else. We almost always win, but we almost always look really bad doing so. Any insight on to why that is?

I think this is a good rivalry game for both schools, though not as bitter as Bama/UT, Bama/Auburn, or State/Ole Miss. The schools are in close proximity to each other and there is a lot of history there. Alabama has actually played Mississippi State more times (93) than it has any other opponent, including Tennessee(92) or Auburn (69).

There are also lots of ties to each programs from the coaching perspective. Many of our head coaches and assistants have been former Tide players (Sherrill, Croom). Mississippi State has also had some historic wins over the Tide (6-3 in 1980, 17-16 in 1996).

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