Jason Crowder of the Mississippi State Radio Network lends his expertise for the Bulldogs versus the Maroon Bulldogs matchup on Saturday. Jason is a terrific young announcer with great love and appreciation for SEC athletics. We always enjoy seeing my friend when Georgia and MSU play, no matter the sport.
Talk about the relationship between the MSU faithful and Mike Leach?
What’s not to love about Mike Leach. He’s laid back, intellectually humorous and fits in well with Mississippi culture. But, it’s not your personality that ultimately defines you as a coach, we all know that. We’ve been told year three is the big year where Leach’s air raid system thrives. Last season, we saw glimpses of what year three could be. There was fight and fire late in games where State trailed. Some they won, others they lost. But, the defense was solid, the offense clicked more and more as the season went on, and there would be a wealth of experience back, including starting quarterback Will Rogers. But, this has been a head scratching year as far as consistency goes. For example, there have been big, dominant quarters or halves, where all phases clicked but within the same game, there would be sloppy, penalty-filled stretches that would allow an opponent to get back in the contest or gain confidence. Also, there have been inconsistent games. State won back to back games to start the season by over 20 points each, then lays an egg versus LSU in game 3 on the road where penalties, special teams mistakes and turnovers, and lack of energy cost them a game they led 13-0. Most defensive issues have been a result of the offense not being able to move the ball and these performances have all come on the road. That’s the other issue, road woes. So, all that to say, Mike hasn’t “Lost” the MSU faithful but there are some mild detractors, especially after a tough loss. The Egg Bowl looms and so far, he is 0-2 versus Ole Miss. With three losses already and Georgia ahead on the schedule, that game is ginormous in how he will be judged to this point. Another 7-6 finish to the season will have the faithful, well, not so faithful to Mike Leach.
What is the level of excitement for Georgia’s visit in this battle of Bulldogs?
Anytime the reigning National Champions come to town, there will be unbridled excitement. Plus, this is a blue blood program that doesn’t frequent Starkville. There have been more ticket requests to me for this game than any other all season. Since the pandemic, State has had struggles filling the stadium. Now, in fairness, this has been an issue across the country. So, I believe this can be a sellout and raucous environment, especially since kick off is slated for 7 p.m. EST! There is also a lot of respect for Georgia and its program amongst this fan base.
What does State need to do to beat Georgia?
Everything. The obvious things we always say are win the turnover battle, right? So, there’s that and then there’s the obvious key which is win the line of scrimmage. But, I think the X factor is to stretch the field. That’s easier said than done but when State has faced a defense like UGA’s, that area has been non-existent. It helps the opposing defense play more in the box to not only stop the run but get into passing lanes that are 15 yards or less from the line of scrimmage. Nick Saban has given the blueprint in how to slow down the “Air Raid”. Pressure Rogers and stop the run. It’s easy right? Well, if you have the athletes that Bama does and guess who does? Yep, Georgia. So, the hometown Bulldogs will need exceptional offensive line play, no pre snap penalties, will have to be successful in explosive plays, create turnovers, win field position, and hey, take advantage of opportunities in the kicking game by actually booting the ball thru the uprights, an area that still plagues Mike Leach for the second straight season. None of which should be easy against the defending champs.
What is your take on Georgia?
Well, my take on their quarterback two years ago was wrong. I said he was “Serviceable” but lacked the ability to be a “Jake Fromm.” Boy was I wrong. He did something Jake didn’t, and that’s lead the red and black to a National Championship! Good for him. I rooted for him. And is it just me or does Stetson seem faster this year? Look, I could tell you all the obvious things like, they’re big in areas, fast all around, and flat out physical. Now, they are these things but I love how they have handled the bullseye on their back. It’s not easy. Kirby has done an outstanding job, which goes without saying. He is maybe doing his best job this season because of said bullseye. Georgia’s run game is solid, they are physical upfront, and Brock Bowers is the college version of Gronk. This is a team that has opponents seeing stars..4 and 5 stars.
What are some changes, or stabilization, that you would like to see in college football/college athletics?
I love the addition of eight teams to the college football playoffs. Will it change as far as a select few winning the championship? Probably not but it adds more football and that can’t be a bad thing, right? Besides, I believe there will be upsets in early rounds and speaking of which, I love the idea of on campus, postseason action in said early rounds. I hope that NIL can be ratified a bit. I’m not against NIL, but would love to see it used for what it was meant to. For example, players getting a percentage of jersey sales, pay for appearances, and allowed endorsements. As for other sports, it’s time for a third paid assistant and increased scholarships in baseball … don’t get me started.