Game Day Eve: Koenning to Face ‘Close Friends’ Saturday

This week’s game: South Alabama (1-2) at No. 23 MSU (3-0), Saturday, 6 p.m., PPV (Bart Gregory and Jackie Sherrill)

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When MSU faces South Alabama this week, offensive coordinator Les Koenning will be facing his former co-workers. He was at USA in 2008 as it worked to get the program off the ground; there were no games that year.

Koenning took the MSU job the following year. He enters tomorrow’s game with a certain amount of knowledge of the South Alabama coaching staff and the program in general, and so he has a built-in level of respect for them.

“I think they’re ready to play,” Koenning said. “This is a big deal for them, and they have good coaches over there. … Those guys have been around a lot of successful programs. I think it’s important that we understand that.”

Koenning raved about the people at South Alabama, from the administration to the coaches, and he’s kept in touch with them. “I talk to those guys off and on throughout the year because they’re close friends of mine.”

While MSU is a heavy favorite, it learned a valuable lesson in last week’s 30-24 win over Troy: If it doesn’t stay 100 percent focused, then the other team might have a shot.

“If you’re an oddsmaker you might not pick us to win,” USA coach Joey Jones said, “but there is somebody who gets beat every week who isn’t supposed to. That’s the way I look at it.”

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A couple of links from the South Alabama side: The Jaguars had a good practice Thursday, their final practice of the week. … MSU left tackle Blaine Clausell, a Mobile native, isn’t getting caught up in facing his hometown team.

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Here’s the rest of this weekend’s SEC schedule (all games Saturday).

• Ole Miss at Tulane, 11 a.m., Fox Sports Net

• Kentucky at Florida, 11:21 a.m., SEC Network

• Missouri at South Carolina, 2:30 p.m., CBS

• FAU at Alabama, 4 p.m., PPV

• LSU at Auburn, 6 p.m., ESPN

• Rutgers at Arkansas, 6 p.m., ESPNU

• South Carolina State at Texas A&M, 6 p.m., Fox Sports Net

• Akron at Tennessee, 6:30 p.m., CSS

• Vanderbilt at Georgia, 6:45 p.m., ESPN2

I am the online content coordinator for DJournal.com. Previously at the Journal, I covered Mississippi State athletics (2008-13), high schools (2004-08), and was on the copy desk (2002-04). I'm working on a recipe for bacon-flavored coffee, which would solve all the world's problems.

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