For Alabama football fans who have not followed Mississippi State closely this season, an expert on MSU football has provided us with some interesting observations.
Evan Ertel, who writes for Maroon and White Nation and I exchanged information on the Bulldogs and the Crimson Tide. That FanSided platform should not be labeled as a ‘homer’ fan site. Their coverage of Mississippi State sports is candid and refreshing.
I had been reading the MSU program has been struggling with the transition from Mike Leach to Zach Arnett. There have also been fan concerns that Arnett and new Mississippi State OC, Kevin Barbay were not always on the same page.
The situation in Starkville was always going to be tough this season. A team built around Mike Leach’s offensive system had to reinvent itself. A team is either all-in Air Raid or not and State had little option but to choose not.
I asked Evan if he thought the transition was having success. His response was,
"Being that we are 2-2 with a QB on the cusp of being an all-time leading passer in college football, I’d say it’s not! Last week at South Carolina seemed to be a bit of a bounce-back game for Will Rogers and the offense, but it was just too little too late. OC Kevin Barbay is clearly not getting as comfortable as most fans were hoping for but I think this is a week to finally step into some positive light. I think Barbay learned a lot about his offense in Columbia, and I hope to see him carry that over into this week. The Bulldogs were finally able to stretch the field a bit, and Rogers has to stay confident in his ability to do that in order to stand a chance on Saturday Night."
Probing a bit deeper, I asked if, as some MSU fans have claimed, Arnett has been too hands-on with the new offense. Ertel’s answer was,
"I’m going to go full blogger opinion on this. I don’t think he is honestly doing much at all with the offense in-game. I think he has handed that responsibility over to Barbay and the assistants, outside of major decisions like 4th downs. If that is the case, where he is dropping in only on those high-leverage moments, that is a big problem, in my opinion. For him to not have that synchronicity with the offense and then take over when the seat gets warm, seems extremely disruptive to a group that is only four games into a new system. If you’re going to let your coordinators cook, stay out of the kitchen, especially when you have never written an offensive cookbook."
Alabama Football and Mississippi State
I appreciate Evan’s candor. I am an Alabama football fan who does not relish Mississippi State doing poorly. I save my animus for a few other SEC teams, though I have never forgiven Mississippi State for firing Sylvester Croom.
Maybe what is happening in Starkville is a head coach, new to head coaching, needs time to learn a job that is significantly different from being a coordinator. Arnett and his entire staff will have my staunch support when they travel to Auburn in late October, and later when the Bulldogs go to College Station.
Two more snippets from Ertel. He stated not a single MSU fan will be disappointed to not have Alabama on the 2024 schedule. He also said with the Bulldogs’ secondary and ineffective pass rush, if Jalen Milroe needs a “get-right game” – Saturday night could be it.