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MSU Mailbag: MSU assistant coaches, Alabama questions and more




Two thought-provoking questions this week, so let's dive right into this. 


- Friend of the Mailbag Rob Montgomery (@10RobertWilliam) -- What made you want to do the Mailbag? Are you fan of bad non-conference games in November? 


I like doing the Mailbags for questions like your second one, Rob. My brain is so full of college football takes that sometimes I need a direct question to unearth one. 


I HATE those trash games in November. Those games essentially give the nation an excuse to ignore the SEC for a whole week and it's really, really hard to get the full financial benefit of a home game as those are tough tickets to sell sometimes. 


This unearths the bigger topic of non-conference scheduling among the elites of college football. I would love nothing more than for Power 5 teams to exclusively schedule Power 5 teams in the non-conference, but the impact of those paycheck games on the smaller programs is beyond description: for example, the paycheck Alabama pays Mercer for taking what will be a massive L legitimately might keep that athletic program afloat for an entire year, and that's great: there are so many kids around the nation that might not have an opportunity to go to college at all if not for a scholarship offer from Mercer to go play tennis or something. 


I could go on about this topic for an hour, but what we'll eventually come to is this: yes, everyone that doesn't directly make money from the playing of college athletics would benefit if, for instance, MSU's game against Charleston Southern was replaced with a game against Indiana or those Art Briles Baylor teams actually played teams with a pulse. (Seriously go look at those non-con schedules, they're terrible.) But the grander institution of college athletics needs this money to move around the way it does currently until someone much smarter than me figures out a way to do it without these games. 


- The other thinker question comes from Colby Williams, @ColbyW1411, who I'd like to welcome as I'm pretty sure this is his first time in the Mailbag -- Which MSU position coach adds the most value to the team? 


Most people would take a straight-up recruiting approach to this since the talent level is the true value of a program, which would lead you to either wide receivers coach Billy Gonzales or running backs coach Greg Knox, but I'm going to go off the beaten path with this: give me defensive line coach Brian Baker. 


You could make the simple case that SEC football is won first and foremost with defensive lines and Baker is the man in charge of that unit, but I think Baker's especially critical in a Todd Grantham system. Most of Grantham's complex pass rush schemes are complex because of what he does with linebackers, either doing weird things with them or scheming everything else to get one in a clear pass-rush lane. Grantham also isn't one to run complex coverage schemes. 


Grantham defenses have the potential to be elite on a national level when he has defensive line play of that quality, and it's undeniable Baker has gotten that unit better. Safeties coach Ron English is crucial, too, but I'll take Baker. He's working with guys that are returning and a good coaching job from him could make the 2018 team live up to the high expectations likely to be set for it. 


- Shoutout to the Mailbag homie Daniel Montgomery (@dalemo830) who comes through with two: If Mullen never coached at Florida, would be still be the "frontrunner"? He also noticed I used a Harry Potter GIF in my tweet asking for questions and wanted to check my level of fandom. 


That's a very good point, Daniel. I wonder how much chatter Mullen would get if he didn't have the painfully obvious ties to Florida. He would still get mentioned just based on his coaching merit alone, but I think it's fair to guess other guys like Scott Frost, Mike Norvell and Justin Fuente would get more talk. 


Absolutely a Harry Potter fan. I vividly remember the day the seventh book came out, going and buying it as soon as I woke up and spending the entire day in my room reading it. (Not the coolest moment of my life, now that I admit it on the Internet.) It's taken me a shockingly long time to not get engrossed in the weekend marathon each time they show it on ABC Family/Freeform. (Still watch big chunks of it when they air it.) 


Here's how much of a Harry Potter nerd I was back in the day (the seventh book came out while I was in high school) -- I was so wrapped up in it I called the twist of Harry being an accidental horcrux. Nailed it months in advance. Again, not my coolest moment as I broadcast it to the world. 


- Enter: RAPID FIRE MAILBAG MODE. Three questions from Chilidawg (@dg7258). First: How much time do you expect Keytaon Thompson to get against UMass? 


I expect Keytaon to get most of, if not the entire second half. I just don't see how UMass keeps this game close and it won't surprise me at all to see this game so out of reach that MSU feels like it's time to get Fitz out of the game at halftime. 


- No. 2 from @dg7258: Which bowl game do you see MSU going to this year? 


If the season plays out like I think it will -- 12-0 Alabama meeting 12-0 Georgia in the SEC Championship Game -- I think both of those teams getting into the College Football Playoff will help MSU. If that happens, that leaves the Dec. 30 and Jan. 1 games likely to take MSU to fill its SEC tie-ins, meaning MSU is a good candidate for the Citrus, Orange and Outback Bowls. Of course, if Alabama or Georgia misses the playoff, they'll take one of those spots and diminish MSU's odds at one of those spots, but if MSU does what it's supposed to do and finish 9-3, I still like its odds at those bowls. 


- No. 3: How much football eligibility does Andy Cannizaro have? 


You'd think that guy has some left since he works out like an undersized offensive lineman somebody signed on the condition they gain 40 pounds before the end of their freshman season. Dude stays in the gym. 


- Final Rapid Fire question: Platinum member of the MSU Mailbag Club, @jcdickinson32, asks: What's more likely to happen, MSU beating Alabama next week or Dan Mullen going to Florida? 


No doubt, Dan Mullen going to Florida. And I posted on this here blog earlier this week that I don't think Dan Mullen's going to go to Florida, which tells you how likely I think that upset is. 


- Now, on that subject, a good question for Landon Tucker, @landydandy -- Do you think MSU will beat Alabama while Nick Saban is there? 


For schools like MSU to beat super-dynasties like Alabama, one of two things has to happen (unless you're Ole Miss doing it with players acquired by less-than-savory means). You have to either hope that ring leader of that dynasty slips in his later years and the team gets worse, or you have to catch that team in a transition phase of some sort. I don't think Saban's going to do the former and I think MSU just missed the latter. 


I could be reading Saban wrong, but I don't think he's going to pull the BS Bowden and Paterno (Sandusky scandal aside) pulled late in their careers by staying far, far beyond their ability to contribute anything useful to their programs. 


Now, let's talk about that transformation phase. Look at Alabama's 2008, 2009 and 2011 teams: those were teams built on downhill running and loading the box with monstrous guys to stop teams that were doing the same thing. That's why they got popped by guys like Johnny Manziel, so Alabama adjusted. It took Alabama about 2 years to really get that down, 2013 and 2014, and now they've adjusted and resumed their dominance in a completely different way -- unfortunately for MSU, one that's more adept to stopping what Dan Mullen likes to do. I'm afraid MSU's best shots at toppling Bama were in that stretch when MSU lost 20-7 and 25-20; since then, Alabama 2.0 has beaten MSU by 36.5 points per game. 


I'm not going to be that guy that's dumb enough to say something will never happen in this wild and crazy sport of college football, but man is this unlikely.



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