Site Expert Cole Patterson of Maroon and White Nation sat down with us to talk about Mississippi State and Texas A&M football in 2017.
Related Story: We answer questions for Maroon and White Nation
Texas A&M football saw their season come to a crashing halt at the hands of Mississippi State in 2016. Aspirations of the College Football Playoff quickly soured. When Trevor Knight went down the Aggies’ season went with him. What should the Aggies expect from the Bulldogs in 2017?
Q: What are the expectations for Mississippi State this season? Is making a bowl game “good enough”?
Patterson: Mississippi State ended the 2016 season on a high note — beating A&M (sorry!), Ole Miss by 35 points, and a close bowl victory. In 2017, expectations will be higher. With a new (and expected to be improved) defensive staff and arguably the SEC’s best quarterback, State has a chance to make some noise. However, question marks still remain at wide receiver after the departure of Fred Ross and in the secondary. 7-9 wins (including bowl) seems to be the range many are expecting. Anything less than seven regular season wins would be very disappointing.
Q: Do you foresee the Bulldogs upsetting the Aggies again in 2017? What will it take for them to win on the road at Kyle Field?
Patterson: Aside from a miserable 2012 contest in which Johnny Manziel made the Bulldogs forget how to play football, State has played A&M fairly well. A&M took 2013 in a 51-41 victory, but State has taken two of the last three. In order for the Bulldogs to make it three of four, Nick Fitzgerald needs to continue developing his accuracy. He is one of the most dangerous players at any position in the SEC, but still needs to work on his passing. If Fitz can get his accuracy down, the Bulldogs will have a great chance in College Station.
Q: What is the ceiling for quarterback Nick Fitzgerald in 2017?
Patterson: The ceiling for Nick Fitzgerald is the roof (joking). Fitz has the potential to become one of the elite quarterbacks in all of college football. He is already on pace to break some of Dak’s records and some will argue he is better than Dak at the same point in their careers. Dan Mullen is one of, if not the best, quarterback whisperers in the nation. If Fitz continues to learn under him and develop his fundamentals, Fitzgerald can go as far as he wants.
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Q: Who do you see as an emerging star that people outside of the program haven’t heard of yet?
Patterson: Mississippi State rarely pulls in the five-stars A&M and Alabama do, but Mullen has a tremendous eye for raw and overlooked talent. On offense, the player that can (and needs to emerge) is sophomore WR Jamal Couch. Couch signed as 4-star in the 2016 class and appeared sparingly last season. The former FSU commit is listed at 6-foot 4-inches and 223 pounds. With Fred Ross off to the NFL, Mississippi State desperately needs a receiver to step up opposite of the dynamic Donald Gray. Couch has the potential to be just that.
Q: What is it going to take for Dan Mullen to break through and compete for an SEC title?
Patterson: Dan Mullen is regarded as one of the better coaches in the nation for his ability to develop raw talent and take Mississippi State to new heights. Mississippi State had an opportunity to break through in 2014, as Dak and company reached number one for the first time ever. However, the Alabama game ruined State’s perfect season and the Bulldogs couldn’t recover. The SEC West is the deepest and most talented division in all of college football, and MSU knocked off three top-teams within the division that season. If we couldn’t win the West with Dak, it’s hard to see us winning it until Saban decides to walk away.
Q: The Aggies just celebrated their fifth anniversary since joining the SEC. How do Bulldog fans feel about adding the Aggies to the conference?
Patterson: Happy anniversary! As a Texas native, I wasn’t too sure how to feel about the Aggies at first. It was cool that the SEC expanded to the Lone Star State, but it was a different vibe. Five years later, A&M has proven to be a solid addition to the best conference in college sports. We’re mostly happy that Manziel isn’t burning us anymore. It’s also cool to have another team another team wearing the maroon and white!