Evan Ertel of SB Nation’s Mississippi State site For Whom the Cowbell Tolls joined us to answer a few questions about the upcoming game between the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs and the Mississippi State Bulldogs. The game will be at Joe Aillet Stadium at 6:30 CT on CBSSN this Saturday.
Tanner Spearman: Last year, Mississippi State finished 6-7, having struggled in out of conference games despite a few bright spots in SEC play. What are the expectations for 2017?
Evan Ertel: Expectations for 2017 are truly all over the place. I would say that most MSU fans are expecting 7 or 8 wins this year, based off of the return of Nick Fitzgerald, addition of Todd Grantham at Defensive Coordinator, and one of Dan Mullen's more hyped up recruiting classes in recent memory. Personally, I see MSU finishing the season at the 9 win mark. I think this year is giving MSU a lot of favorable scheduling match-ups and catching LSU and Georgia early should be big positives. What I think is the strangest thing as far as projecting a win total for MSU, is that before the start of the season, Vegas has MSU's win total at 6.5. 6.5?!?! Absolutely bananas. Let's hope Vegas doesn't know something we don't.
Tanner: Other than Nick Fitzgerald, what key players should La Tech fans be watching from Mississippi State?
Evan: Buddy, let me tell you, you've got options. Offensively, Donald Gray and Farrod Green would be where I would start if you're looking for more explosive plays. They separated themselves from the rest of the receivers early on Saturday, racking up 125 yards between the two of them on a combined 5 receptions. Though, the true soul of this offense lies in Mullen's deep stable of running backs. Aeris Williams was fed the ball on almost a third of MSU's 50 run plays vs Charleston Southern, tallying 83 yards and a touchdown. Kylin Hill currently is looking to be RB2 and the freshman is already making some noise in the backfield.
Defensively, Kobe Jones is a guy to be concerned about for LaTech fans, he recorded a team leading 2.5 tackles for loss on Saturday. Jefferey Simmons and JT Gray are two more that showed their capability as big play makers in week 1. Overall, this is a strong defense without any distinguished stars at this point in the season so it should be fun to watch some guys try to make names for themselves.
Tanner: This will be the fourth game of a six-game series between the two Bulldog teams. How do State fans feel about this extended series? Tech and State have been playing a lot in other sports recently, as well. Is there any appetite to continue playing Tech, or do State fans even notice?
Evan: Meaning absolutely no disrespect to Louisiana Tech and I by all means do not speak for all Mississippi Sate fans, but it's just another non-conference game that will hopefully get us to the ever sought-after 6 win bowl eligibility requirement. To be completely honest, until I read this question, I had no idea we had played each other 3 seasons in a row already and I certainly did not know we have 2 more years after this. But that might say more about my previous three years as a student attending football games..
Tanner: How did the cowbell tradition start, and can we expect to hear a lot of them in Joe Aillet Stadium this Saturday?
Evan: The tradition began in the 1940's when Scott Field wasn't much more than some small stands surrounded by cow pastures. General lore within the fanbase tells us that during an Egg Bowl in the 40's, a jersey cow wandered onto the field causing a disruption in the game. Before the cows appearance, things did not look well for the Bulldogs, but after the cow was removed, they went on to run the school from up north out of town, scurrying back to Oxford. The students then went on to bring the cow to a few games after that, attempting to recapture the good luck. Eventually, students settled to only bring a symbol of the cow, the cowbell. Over time, people began welding bike handles on them and now here we are.
That is entirely up to the fine people in the Louisiana Tech administration. But I'll tell you if they're allowed in, sorry LaTech fans, but you're going to be in for a bad time.
(Editor’s note: The La Tech administration has reportedly stated cowbells will not be allowed.)
Tanner: What is your final score prediction?
Evan: I'm not a fan of outright score predictions so I'll pick against the spread instead. Currently Mississippi State is a 7.5 point favorite and after what I saw against Charleston Southern, I'm not sure how. I'm taking MSU to cover easily.