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MSU Mailbag: A bunch of football questions, a scheduling take, Will Ferrell and more

 

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Ladies and gents, we have a Mailbag rarity -- more sports questions than fun nonsense questions. That being the case, let's start with our fun before we get into the serious football talk. 

 

- Guess who's back. Back again. Oliver McLoed (@dak4knight)'s back. Tell a friend. 1) This isn't a question but I'm never going to Lexington again. Stupid town. Football is dumb. 2) What's the last thing you googled? 3) What decades was best for music (of all genres)? 4) What is Will Ferrell's best character? 5) Give your pitch for Anchorman 3. 

 

1) A good friend of mine from college got married in Lexington (shouts to Charley and Holly) and one of the things we did that weekend was tour the Woodford Reserve facility. I just can't bring myself to hate the town that produces that nectar of the gods. And yes, football is dumb. And that's why we love it. 

 

2) Y'all ever heard of Spikeball? Google it, it's an incredibly fun game. I was inviting a friend (shouts to Ryan Young) to a game that was about to be played, and I did this by sending him a picture of the Spikeball net, knowing he would know exactly what was going on and where to be. So I Googled Spikeball to get a picture to send to him. (It worked, Ryan was where he needed to be in about 15 minutes and we all played for two hours.) 

 

3) Sometimes you hear people say they like all music, but over time you come to realize they're pretty much never playing top 40 hits of their own volition, right? I truly like pretty much any music. Rap is definitely my favorite, and I've even come around to being able to roll with my least favorite (country) by certain artists in the right situation. 

 

I say all that to say that I'm taking this from the big view, all genres and where they were in their evolution. I'm sure if Steve Robertson sees this he's going to kill me for not making it his beloved rock of the 70s or 80s (fair selection), but because I'm looking at all genres, I'm going 90s. 

 

If you want to claim bias on someone that was born in 1992, you can, there's probably a little bit of it in there, but hear my case. In rap, Biggie, A Tribe Called Quest, Tupac, Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre are all killing the game, and we even see the beginning of Eminem for those of you more into modern rap. Frankly, the genre has been trying to reach the greatness of the 90s ever since. Where to start with rock bands: Nirvana, Pearl Jame, Radiohead, Metallica, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Rage Against The Machine, Nine Inch Nails, Smashing Pumpkins, Soundgarten, this list could go on for another thousand words. We've gone through all of this haven't mentioned one of my favorites, Beastie Boys, or Beck, and we're laying the groundwork for some mainstream pop in the coming years. 

 

4) I'm sure some of Saturday Night Live characters stand up to his movie characters, but I'm going to limit this to movie characters for now. He's got some really strong ones -- Chazz from Wedding Crashers, Ricky Bobby from Talladega Nights, Brennan from Step Brothers, he slays his character in The Other Guys -- but I would imagine the most iconic character is Ron Burgundy, right? Who doesn't have at least three Ron Burgundy quotes in their pocket for use whenever they see fit? And how many times is an Anchorman quote used in a conversation without that conversation totally derailing into battling Anchorman quotes? 

 

5) As much of a fan as I am of Anchorman, I was a tad disappointed in Anchorman 2. If you're going to make more than one part of a movie, each part has to at least hold up the the parts before it -- I knew Anchorman 2 wasn't going to be funnier as Anchorman, but if you could at least make it comparable I would fight to give you a shot at an Anchorman 3. I'd have to see the premise of an Anchorman 3 before I fight for one. 

 

- No offense to Cameron Busk (@CamBusk), but I'm guessing he's not a strong interviewer with this one. Would you rather watch the 2018 MSU-UK game on repeat for an entire week or eat the most delicious steak you have ever eaten in your entire life? 

 

My first option here are to watch a group of young men I've come to like off-field -- that being the Mississippi State offensive line -- get wrecked for a few hours, and to do so with the limitations of television, as opposed to actually being there. Or, I can have the experience of a lifetime and a ballin' night's sleep after. 

 

Here's a sentence that applies to you question but almost to every situation in life: I'll take the steak. 

 

- Rob Montgomery (@10RobertWilliam) makes his Mailbag return by first expressing his regrets that's missed the last couple of Mailbags. Apology accepted. He says he just rewatched The Office and wants to know what the best resolution of a character, be it Jim and Pam making the jump for Athlead/Athleap, Dwight's dreams coming true in the final season, Creed being Creed, etc.? 

 

(Let the record show we are now up to five consecutive Mailbags that have referenced The Office, some by me and some by questions. This streak is awesome.) 

 

Those of you that follow my wife on Twitter from the whole baseball postseason take the trash out meme saw she chimed in with Creed being intensely Creed in that finale, and to stand by her I must agree. It was wildly satisfying to see Pam and Jim make the jump like that, just like it was awesome to see Michael come back for Dwight, to see Nellie get the baby (even if under super annoying circumstances) and to see Stanley living the dream. 

 

All that being said, that man faked his own death (poorly), was living in the office he doesn't work in anymore, performed a touching song and spoke from the heart AS HE WAS GETTING ARRESTED. How Creed is that? The answer is Creed. 

 

- @ReeceMonroe1226 continues bringing heat -- 1. What's you favorite Dumb and Dumber quote? 2. What happens when an immovable object meets an unstoppable force? 3. Did Benjamin Button have a childhood? 4. What's your most embarrassing sports moment that you were involved in? 

 

1. It's the obvious one for me: So you're saying there's a chance..... 

 

2. The unstoppable force breaks through the immovable object and keeps going. The object is immovable, but it says nothing about being unbreakable. It can stay where it is and still be broken to pieces. 

 

3. .....no? [sits in the corner for hours rocking in fetal position, contemplating the universe and the meaning of life] 

 

4. Does being a spectator in the upper deck when ULM beat Alabama count? I didn't play particularly well in a students v. faculty game in my senior year of high school, maybe that's it. Unfortunately for the sake of great stories, I was a very average athlete: not good enough to have epic hero stories (barring a couple of nice shooting nights), not bad enough to have stories of getting owned. 

 

- Now, a quick transition from nonsense to football with a baseball question from @MsStBaseballFan -- When is the baseball schedule coming out? 

 

For the 2017 season it was released in December, but I think that was mostly a product of the coaching change coming at such a strange time; it came out in October last year. I'd imagine since the program won't change hands in November this year, it'll come out sometime during football season. It's not like they have a ton of holes to fill anyway. 

 

- We start the football questions with my man @cristilmethod -- Are you ready for #EmotionalToddGranthamBlitzing again? 

 

Not only am I excited to see them back, I wish I could live my life like them. 

 

Imagine if you could live you life like consecutive #EmotionalGranthamBlitzes. Think about a sequence of two #EmotionalGranthamBlitzes in a row: it's an exhilarating moment, followed by just enough time to really revel in what you just witnessed before it happens again. Why yes, I am thrilled to live life on the edge for a few hours once again. 

 

- Andrew Miller (@bulldogblitz16) asks: Do you think checks/audibles that Fitz has been making at the line and his post-snap decisions during RPOs have anything to do with State's offensive struggles? 

 

I do not, and hopefully I can clear up a couple of misunderstandings while we're at it. Not just you, Andrew, we're cool, you know that. There's a lot of this in my mentions over the last few days. 

 

Most of this is revolving around the Moorhead postgame quote when he said there were times when run was called that the ball was thrown. In most of football history before this modern era, and even in a lot of cases today, that meant the quarterback changed the play at the line of scrimmage. That's not what that means here. This is a check-with-me offense; whenever a presnap check is made, it almost always comes from the sideline, not from Nick. I honestly haven't asked Moorhead what powers Fitz has at the line, and maybe I will one day, but I imagine his power is dwarfed by that of Moorhead -- the primary playcaller -- basically executing these checks in the flow of calling his plays. 

 

The decision-making on RPOs thing is possible -- I'm not there yet, but I can see how one got to that conclusion. The only thing I want to point out is making reads on RPOs is actually pretty simple: it's a math problem. If you have enough blockers to handle every run threat, you run it; if you don't, you pass it. Say you're in a four-wide set, so you have five offensive linemen. If they're in base nickel (six in the box), you can run it: the offensive linemen take five and you can beat the unblocked man with your read on whether to keep the ball or hand it off. That's the simple math we're talking here. 

 

It will obviously be something to watch against Florida given the game that came before it, but I don't think we're at a conclusion on it yet. 

 

- Friend on the Florida beat @NickdelaTorreGC (whom you heard from in 5 Questions here on the MSU Blog this week) with a simple question -- What will Dan Mullen's reception be like Saturday night? 

 

Dan Mullen's reception in Starkville will be like the reception given to an intruder by an aggressive pitbull. The reception of vegetarian walking into a Popeyes. The reception granted to a man with no money in a strip club. 

 

- Kevin Kuzma and his awesome handle (@chips_and_kso) asks: Given the team's issues passing, how many points do they need to be down for you to be like, "yep, this is gonna be hard to come back from"? 

 

This one kind of goes back to two questions ago about determining Nick Fitzgerald's issues a tad too early: I have yet to give up on the passing game. I attribute the passing woes against Kentucky to two things: penalties forcing passing downs, where it's proven it's tougher to pass, and my opinion that RPO offenses have to have some threat of running the ball in order to pass. RPOs are based on running where there's a numbers advantage in the box and passing when there's not, and against Kentucky, MSU couldn't run in pretty much any circumstance. 

 

I don't mean to reject the premise of the question, because it's a fair one if the completion percentage doesn't improve. I guess I just wanna see a little more against conference competition before I put a parameter on the team's comeback ability. 

 

- @clay_hicks asks: Do you think the offensive line's performance against Kentucky was a fluke or should we come to expect play like that from them against higher caliber defensive fronts? 

 

I do have higher expectations for the interior -- guard Deion Calhoun, center Elgton Jenkins and guard Darryl Williams -- and I anticipate those to be met. (Frankly, they weren't terrible in Lexington. Not great, by any stretch, but not awful either.) I've said it a few times over the week, but what we saw at tackle in Lexington does concern me going forward. Not necessarily the false starts, but the general subpar play. 

 

Playing tackle in the SEC is hard: Stewart Reese showed it as he struggled last season as a freshman and Greg Eiland did the same at times when he took over for the injured Martinas Rankin. They both have growing to do, that is obvious. What concerns me about that unit going forward is Kentucky showed that is very clearly the weakness: attacking the middle three with consistency probably won't work over time, but Kentucky showed attacking the outside will. And it's hard to help those guys, unless you detract from the passing game with the help of a running back or a tight end. 

 

I think it's wise to have a microscope on the tackles in coming weeks. 

 

- Cameron Crawford, @crawford_cam95 -- If MSU loses to Florida, what long-term and short-term effects do you think it has on the season and the program? 

 

Short term: Pretty debilitating, I'm not going to lie. I made this point on my podcast (Straight Sippin' with Courtney Robb and Tom Eble, find it on Soundcloud while we wait to get processed by iTunes), but I am one of many that predicted just two losses for this team all season, and this would give MSU two losses with trips to Tuscaloosa, Death Valley and Oxford left on the schedule. You don't want that in your life. 

 

Long term: Honestly, little more than annoyance. Yeah it would be wildly annoying for fans if Dan Mullen beat MSU in his first shot back, but what does this mean long-term, really? Moorhead is building his time here on taking the program from good to great, and losing a SEC East crossover game in September of his first season does nothing to derail that. It might put a pretty big damper on what was supposed to be an awesome season, and that may have long term impacts on how the fan base perceives Moorhead, but if we take perception out and judge it by the record with no perception bias, everything will be OK. Or at least it can be OK. 

 

- We end this week's Mailbag with a pair of questions that triggered a scheduling take from yours truly. Will Larsen (@wlarsen24) asked if Kentucky-Mississippi State is officially a rivalry now? And to what level? And @jk_no_kidding piggybacked with this follow-up: Should State fans treat it more like a rivalry now? 

 

The fact that this is a rivalry in the first place is nothing more than an unintended consequence. 

 

This is a product of the SEC's scheduling model where each school has one team it plays from the other division every year, and let's be real, this model is really only in place so Auburn can play Georgia every year and Alabama can play Tennessee every year. (The later addition of Arkansas playing Missouri every year was a nice touch.) Ole Miss and Vanderbilt make some sense, but the rest of them, they're just thrown together for no real reason. 

 

Now, it is nice that MSU-Kentucky and Florida-LSU have developed some animosity for each other, but let's be real, that's going to happen when two football teams play each other consistently over a long period of time. I bet if Georgia State and Boise State played each other every year for 10 years, there would be some fire in that game by the end of that decade, despite the fact that those programs have no reason to hate each other outside of what may happen on a field. 

 

For that reason, these questions (which I'll eventually answer, I promise), prompt this scheduling take: Bill Connelly's pods model is straight up genius. 

 

The basic pod model is each team has three conference mates it plays every year, more or less determined by natural rivalry and proximity. Then its other five (or six) conference games are rotated through the conference, divisions disregarded. It solves the problem the SEC currently has of MSU technically being in a conference with its Eastern division counterparts, but does it really feel like it? Look at it like this: MSU last went to Knoxville in 2008 and won't go again until 2019. In that time, MSU will have played Kansas State twice, Georgia Tech twice (not including a 2008 game) and play neutral site regular season games in Houston and New Orleans. It's been so long since Tennessee and MSU have played each other in football, Nick Saban has had enough time to win five national championships. 

 

(Yes, Bill C's first pods model had MSU and Kentucky in each other's pod, which underlies my point to a degree, but that can be tweaked.) 

 

Think about pods for a minute. What do Arkansas and MSU have in common, really, other than relative ease to get to each other's town by plane in 2018? Wouldn't you be willing to trade that game every year to see your Dogs play in cool places like CoMo and Williams-Bryce Stadium and Neyland Stadium more than once a decade? In this new model, it's entirely possible you could watch your team play in every stadium in the league in a five-year span. It would also put an end to divisional bias in conference affiliation, such as how being a SEC team means a little less when you come from the East or how being a Big 10 team means a little less when you come from the West. (Unless you're Georgia or Wisconsin right now.) 

 

If you're going to get animosity on the field and trash-talking and in the most recent case, important results, then yeah, MSU fans should treat it as secondary rivalry to Ole Miss. I guess, in this exact case, the SEC was right for the wrong reason. 

 

Follow Dispatch sports writer Brett Hudson on Twitter @Brett_Hudson

 

 

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