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What To Watch For: Mississippi State Bulldogs

NCAA Football: Louisville at Western Kentucky Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports


Mississippi State was hit pretty hard by the trend of players skipping bowl games to prep for the draft. Cameron Dantler and Brian Cole will both skip the game and the MSU secondary will be starting two freshmen at cornerback because of that. Dantzler has missed a couple of games this year with an apparent injury so protecting his draft stock makes sense. The guys that will be on the field at corner just don’t have a lot of experience and they haven’t been productive in the time they’ve been on the field.

Louisville has to exploit the obvious weakness of an already suspect defense. Dez Fitzpatrick and Seth Dawkins have been utilized inconsistently this year but a big part of that has been Tutu Atwell being such a big play threat. They have to get the ball in this game as they have a huge advantage against these young players. UofL doesn’t have to push the ball down the field with them but they should use them as extensions of the run game with short throws outside the numbers.


Kylin Hill made news by announcing that he would still play in the bowl game even though he was declaring for the draft. But will he be used like he was during the regular season when he led the SEC in touches? There’s no way to know until the game starts but I have a theory that Hill wants the single season rushing record for MSU and that’s it. He needs 40 or so yards to get the record and I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw a lot less of him if he gets the record.

Hill is viewed as a second day draft pick so he can help his draft stock with a good showing but he doesn’t have a shot of making himself a much higher draft pick with one game. He didn’t perform well against the best teams on MSU’s schedule this year and running backs are pretty disposable in the NFL now. I think that Hill could see limited carries in this game and Joe Moorehead could look to get Lee Witherspoon and Nick Gibson more touches. I don’t see either back as a big drop off but there’s a reason that Hill had so many touches this year. He’s a big key to their offense.


Bowl games serve a unique purpose for coaches as they allow them to get practice time for young players who are backups. Louisville will be without Mekhi Becton at left tackle as well as Russ Yeast at safety. That could lead to a freshman or two playing in this game as added depth. Louisville also has freshmen who haven’t played this year but will be needed in key roles next season that the staff may want to get on the field in a game situation.

Dez Melton is a guy that I felt would need a couple of years to become a factor but he was awarded what I believe was a scout team award at the end of the regular season and he could a key player at tight end next year with multiple guys graduating. Zach Edwards was moved to defensive end early in the season and found his way onto the field. With the defense struggling with depth, I would be surprised if he doesn’t see the field as he has one more game left to play while keeping his redshirt.

Though Dorian Jones was injured on his first play this season I think we could see another linebacker on the field. Allen Smith could be used on special teams and maybe at outside linebacker. I also think we’ll see Renato Brown, Jackson Gregory, and Aidan Robbins on offense. Those guys have all seen the field this year but have more games available while holding onto their redshirts.


Louisville has depth issues just about everywhere but there are a few guys on this team that are fairly irreplaceable right now. Russ Yeast is one of those guys. Yeast has shown up against the best backs on Louisville’s schedule this year and his absence against UK was a big factor in how the Cats ran the ball. Yeast had two forced fumbles against NC State, 11 tackles against BC, and 8 tackles against FSU. He is also one of the few players that has been consistent at making tackles at the second level of the defense. With MSU being so run heavy, having him would have been very helpful. His replacements have also not played to the level that UofL needs them to.

My other concern is that Yeast has experience at corner and it has helped him in coverage against slot receivers this year. He’s had the same issues against RPOs that everyone has but I don’t expect to see MSU roll those out unless they specifically add them for this game. I do expect the Bulldogs to try ot mimic UofL and get their slot guy on a safety and run some play action. Isaiah Hayes and Jack Fagot will be the guys replacing Yeast. I don’t know that I’ve seen either of them excel in that situation this year.