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November 8, 2013

Five good questions: Mississippi State

To learn a little more about Texas A&M's opponent for Saturday, Mississippi State, we turned to senior writer Robbie Faulk of Bulldogblitz.com.

1. What is the status of Dak Prescott for the A&M game after the tragedy in his family earlier this week?

There were rumors circulating that Dak actually made it back to Starkville for practice on Wednesday. While I wouldn't be surprised based on the type of competitor and teammate that he is, I have not confirmed that either way. I do expect him to play of Saturday because he is a player that wants to do whatever it takes to help the team. I would like to see him on the field just to give him a few hours to let his mind focus on something other than what he's gone through the past week.

2. What kind of differences will we see in the Bulldogs' offense when Tyler Russell is running things as opposed to Prescott?

Tyler is much more refined in the passing game. He's shown a bit more composure in the pocket and he has the better arm of the two as a natural passing qb. As a natural passer, Russell isn't built for the type of offense that Mullen wants to run. The Bulldogs' offense has run much smoother when Prescott is on the field because defenses can't key on one thing they have to adjust to both the read option and a play action. Russell will be used regardless on Saturday but if Prescott can play, I imagine he will be used the most.

3. Guard Gabe Jackson is a mammoth guy and a potential high NFL draft pick. What's he meant to the Mississippi State program over the years?

Gabe has been huge. MSU has lacked a difference maker up front outside of him and he's had to shoulder that weight the last three years. He got his feet wet as a redshirt freshman on a veteran offensive line and has started every game of his career. The thing that makes Gabe so good outside of being a big, physical lineman is that he never takes a play off. He's the one guy on the offensive line that you know you're probably not getting passed when you go one on one with him. He'll be the biggest loss for the team next season.

4. Mississippi State lost some key people on defense last year to the NFL and others have been injured and missed time this season. Who are some of the guys that will not be playing Saturday that otherwise would be playing major roles?

Safety Jay Hughes might be the biggest loss of the season for MSU who's lost three players for the season. Hughes is a fourth-year junior and has learned the system his whole career and just became a starter this year thanks to graduation. Hughes is the son of safeties coach Tony Hughes and thinks like his father as he is basically the brains of the secondary. He had a great spring and summer and looked to be a huge piece in the first possession of the season as he broke up two passes. On the second pass he ruptured his Achilles and is rehabbing now. Everyone else is pretty healthy on defense it's just a very young group in the secondary and on the defensive line.

5. Some teams defend Johnny Manziel by using a spy. Do you think that Mississippi State will try something similar?

They tried early last season and that didn't seem to work. I do think they'll try something similar to that early on and I think they have a couple of players that could fit that role. Linebacker Matthew Wells is a hybrid type linebacker that's built a bit like a safety. He goes sideline to sideline pretty well and could be a candidate for spying on Manziel. I wouldn't be surprised to see safety Nickoe Whitley blitzing at times or spying on the QB either. Both of those could be used in that situation.

Bonus: In your opinion, what does Mississippi State have to do to pull the upset?

First and foremost the Bulldogs have to protect the football. Last week, MSU couldn't afford any turnovers against South Carolina and they gave the ball away 5 times with USC scoring four times off of those. They have to protect the ball and they have to control the time of possession. A&M is going to score on their possessions so the Bulldogs have to limit those possessions that Manziel gets. The Bulldogs are second in the league in time of possession and they were first in the conference in least amount of turnovers prior to last week. They're capable of doing both of those things but it's going to be really difficult for them to go to College Station and win. It will have to be a near perfect game for MSU.

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