Mississippi State, 4-0 and ranked 21st in the country, is off this week. Well, it has no game on Saturday, anyway. That doesn’t mean some work won’t get done.
In fact, senior cornerback Johnthan Banks said after Saturday’s 30-10 win over South Alabama that he doesn’t plan on slowing down this week.
“You never want to take a day off. I don’t,” he said. “I might not be doing as much as a freshman is doing, but I’m going to go out there and work every day, because I want to be great. I can’t be great sitting on the sidelines.”
There’s no reason for MSU’s coaches to worry about Banks. There are concerns elsewhere, however, starting with the offense. The Bulldogs punted on their first four possessions Saturday, and the week before they stalled in the second half as Troy mounted a comeback. Quarterback Tyler Russell wasn’t sharp against South Alabama, and his numbers the past two weeks aren’t eye-popping: 24 of 53 (45.3 percent) for 415 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. All those drops against Troy certainly hurt his totals, but he was definitely off against USA.
The defensive line, while it’s been solid, hasn’t been quite as dominant as expected, at least not statistically speaking. But the defense as a whole sure looked a lot better against South Alabama than it did against Troy.
“There’s a lot of improving we have to do on both sides of the ball,” head coach Dan Mullen said. “We’ll get a lot of that fixed in the bye week this week.”
On the whole, MSU is in a very good place, and it’s where it had expected to be. It’s 4-0 for the first time since 1999 and is in position to accomplish that 7-0 start we’ve talked about. Two more wins make State bowl-eligible for the third consecutive season. Beating Kentucky next week will make the Bulldogs 2-0 in the SEC, matching last year’s league win total.
“The nice part is when you go to make adjustments and you’re 4-0,” said Mullen, “it’s an easier feeling for the guys.”
• Here’s my USA-MSU rewind from today’s Journal.
• We should find out kickoff time and TV info for the Kentucky game later today. A reminder: No press conference today. We’ll catch up with people on Tuesday and Wednesday.