Well, a lot of hype is building up over this 2009 Homecoming matchup for MSU, and maybe it’s well deserved…I just don’t see it. This passed weekend, Houston was knocked out of their #12 ranking, by a lowly, 2-3, UTEP team- 58 to 41. Once again, UTEP. The upset itself, is telling of Conference USA, in that NO ‘real’ dominant team-usually comes out of the conference. And, until its members can make it through the season without tripping over the UTEP’s, the Marshall’s, the UAB’s, and the Rice’s, they will forever lack credibillity. Is Houston a good team?…Yes. Are they fun to watch?…You bet. Were they ever top 15 material?…I can’t believe that they were.
When Houston does roll into Starkville, they will bring with them the #1 offensive player in the country (atleast stat wise), in Chase Keenum. As you probably know by now, Keenum throws for a little more than 445 yds a game, and the Coug’s average almost 575 yds a game. When you look closer at the numbers that have defined UH’s season so clearly, you must first examine ‘who’ was on the other side of the ball. With the exception of DII Northwestern State, Houston has faced teams with an average ‘Total Defense’ ranking of 81st. We can’t include NW State into that equation, simply because they are a DII school, and frankly I’m making them look better. Now, that number was inflated somewhat by UTEP’s defensive rankings, but you also have to take into account that the reason why TTU’s and OSU’s rankings are as high as they are, is simply due to the opponents (cupcakes) that they have faced-early in their schedules. And, they are only now getting into conference play. Hmmm…now, once again, I’m not trying to discount what Houston has accomplished thus far, but rather getting the ‘boogy man’ myth, out of our closets-when it comes to this matchup.
Chase Keenum is a special player, but how special will he be versus SEC talent? The MSU D has been suspect the past few weeks, giving up deep strikes on play-action passes, and unable to make plays on quick passes behind the line of scrimmage. It seems, that the Dawg D has had a decent scheme in place-the past few weeks, to stop an opposing team’s strength, but ironically fails to capitalize on those same teams’ weaknesses. State will have their hands full with the Cougar offense, but for the first time in weeks, they will know what they’ll actually get-play after play. And that will be pass, pass, pass. The Dawg D has lacked consistency, but maybe some consistency in the opposing team’s play-calling, will be just what they need.
Biggest questions about this matchup: (1) How will Keenum do versus an SEC pass rush? The Coug’s love the 3-step drop, and if they abandon it, they will be in trouble. If I’m the Dawgs, I rush 3 the whole game. and Put in an extra DB or LB on every play. I personally think the quick pass style, will provide the State with opportunities to tip balls, and force turnovers.
(2) Will State get too ‘cute’ with their offense, or focus on their strengths? The old moto K-I-S-S…Keep It Simple Stupid, could be the Dawgs best weapon vs UH. LSU and GT seemed to be unable to stop State’s running game, so how on earth could UH’s small, undersized D hault them? Run it down their throat, eat clock, and keep Keenum off the field. Wasted passing plays, could take the momentum out of a drive, and leave valuable time on the clock.