Justin K. Aller
How will Mississippi State try to stop Northwestern's rush attack? They probably will, but will it be effective? I try to answer that question, although you're better off asking Dan Mullen.
One more look at football before we get into RANDOM AIMLESS conjecture and hype. Who is good on Northwestern, and what will Mississippi State do to stop them?
Prognosis: Well, let's break this into two parts. First off, don't expect Mark to have a great day returning punts. Yes, he's all that, and a bag of hot Cheetos mixed with Takis, but Mississippi State's punter and great-name-haver Baker Swedenburg doesn't allow opposition to get very far, with team's averaging just .7 yards per return off of his kicks thanks to a good hangtime and coverage. (I assume. I haven't analyzed their punting game. Just guessing.)
But the second part, uh, good. Mississippi State isn't a great team at defending the rush - 12th out of, uh, 12 in the SEC. Sure, the corners are supposedly nice and good at coming up to make stops, which is actually a bummer since Northwestern does run heavily to the outside, but the key is, Northwestern should be moving the ball well on the ground with Kain Colter and Mark.
THE QUARTERBACK MATRIX OF CONFUSION
So Colter's the starter. But what of Siemian?
Trending towards the end of the year, the coaching staff got much better at not being predictable with having Colter only run. He threw at least 10 passes in each of the team's final three games, throwing five touchdowns and zero interceptions. However, don't think Siemian is out of the picture: he came in to lead late drives against Michigan and tossed two touchdowns, then threw 23 passes against Michigan State, again leading successful drives. Loss to Michigan behind us, I think they finally figured out how best to use each guy's talents, even if it is frustrating that it took nine games for them to do it. I expect to see both guys on the field tomorrow.
So how does this play out? Like I said the other day, I think Northwestern's tendency to throw short, quick passes helps Northwestern against Mississippi State's vaunted secondary. Northwestern likely won't be getting into trouble testing Johnthan Banks and Darius Slay downfield because, well, Northwestern rarely throws downfield. Both QB's had short outside routes jumped this year, but not often: both guys are pretty good about not telegraphing throws when they're decisive about making short ones. With that in mind, if Northwestern is smart, they'll ask very little of these two guys in the passing game. Don't play into Mississippi State's strengths.
Did you notice Tyler Scott had seven sacks this year, as well as five passes broken up? I did! Chi Chi Ariguzo had all the big weird interceptions and fumbles and ten tackles for loss, but Scott really killed it up front. He'll be squared off against Blaine Causell, a sophomore who has started all year at left tackle. The Bulldogs have done a pretty good job at avoiding sacks, only allowing 16 - same as Northwestern, a team with much more mobile quarterbacks - with Gabe Jackson getting the props and all-conference selections.
Getting pressure on Tyler Russell will be important: he's the basis of their attack, and if Chad Bumphis gets one-on-one coverage with Daniel Jones or Quinn Evans or anybody who isn't Nick VanHoose, bad things could happen. Russell can't get too comfortable back there, although some of this will be on the other linemen and linebackers, Scott's the best pass-rusher NU has. If David Nwabuisi and others can stop the rush, Scott can be a big factor in messing things up for the Bulldogs.