MSU faces a Heisman winner ... but fortunately Eddie George's playing days are over
After a historic comeback win at Auburn, Mississippi State face a far less fearsome Tigers team when Tennessee State comes to Davis Wade Stadium this weekend.
With the biggest Egg Bowl since perhaps 2014 lurking next week, the matchup with Tennessee State comes at a great time for the Bulldogs following an emotionally draining game against Auburn.
Tennessee State, meanwhile, sits at 5-5 and 3-3 in Ohio Valley Conference play.
Las Vegas currently does not have odds on this game and it’s entirely possible that they won’t due to the imbalance nature and unknown variables of this matchup. Though the Bulldogs would be favored by more than 4 touchdowns, I would guess.
Who are the Tigers?
Well, first of all, the Tigers have perhaps the most famous coaching staff in college football, right up there with Jackson State. Their head coach is the NFL Hall-of-Fame, Heisman Trophy-winning running back, Eddie George.
Their offensive coordinator is one of the most notorious and, at least statistically, worst form NFL head coaches of all time, Hue Jackson. Jackson, famously, went 1-31 in back-to-back seasons as head coach of the Cleveland Browns before being fired with an overall record of 3-36-1.
They are led by senior quarterback, Geremy Hickbottom, a senior from Mobile, Alabama. Hickbottom is playing well this year, completing more than 57% of his passes with 12 touchdowns against just 4 interceptions.
He is also quite capable on the ground, rushing for 270 yards with 7 touchdowns.
Despite this, Hickbottom left early in last week’s game after just 4 pass attempts and two rush attempts. His replacements, Chayil Garnett (a former Auburn recruit) and Deveon Bryant did not play well in his absence.
Garnett saw his first action of the season, completing 9-of-19 attempts for 95 yards with 1 TD and 1 interception.
Defensively, Tadarrius Patterson, a junior linebacker from Birmingham leads the team and the league in sacks with 3.
In pass defense, the Tigers do not have a single player with more than 1 interception. However, 5 Tigers have recorded an interception, one of whom, Rodell Rahmaan, typically plays tight end. Rahmaan moved to linebacker last season.
The goal for the Bulldogs
There are a few great outcomes for Mississippi State coach Mike Leach. The first and most important is health. If anyone essential to winning the Egg Boal has so much as a sore throat, the coaching staff will consider using his replacement.
Secondly, the Bulldogs will want near-perfect execution. There should be no need to run complex offensive schemes or advanced defensive fronts. Coaches should be motivating players to win with their ability.
Third, this week could be a good chance to get game reps for players who will either be playing in Davis Wade for the penultimate time or who may be needed this year or next. There may indeed be reps for some seniors who won’t get a chance to play against Ole Miss and for players who will need to take a step up in 2022.
Saturday’s game is all about setting the tone for the Egg Bowl. Win comfortably, play mistake-free football and stay healthy.
Up north at Ole Miss, which is also having a better year than most expected, the Rebels also have a bit of an emotional break, albeit a conference game, this week when Vanderbilt heads to Oxford.