This post begins our series of previews on Miss. St.
--The biggest way that Stephen Garcia's dismissal is going to affect this team strategically is that it leaves us without a serviceable backup. (It will also affect it emotionally--we'll talk about that another time.) Listening to Steve Spurrier's interview today, you could tell he's worried that this team is going to be doomed if Connor Shaw gets hurt. This is going to mean a few things going forward. First of all, I would expect that we may not run Shaw quite as much as otherwise, and you better believe that the coaches are telling Shaw to go down before the hit each time he does run. The good news there is that Shaw seems very willing to slide when need be. The second thing it means is that we'll probably run more sets with fullbacks and h-backs in order to provide better protection against the blitz. Shaw doesn't need to be taking many hits from sprinting linebackers. The last thing it means is that we'll likely be running more and more direct snaps to Bruce Ellington and Marcus Lattimore. When we do, I'd like to see us mix it up a little bit. It was pretty clear that each time Lattimore took a direct snap, the Kentucky defense was expecting a run in or off tackle, and that's what they got each time. It seemed to me that there was more than enough room for Damiere Byrd to get yardage off motion on most of those plays.
--To stay on the same topic, the overall key to this game offensively will be again to take some attention off Lattimore. Despite having seen Shaw light up the 'Cats last week, I still strongly believe that you're going to see Miss. St. key in on Lattimore and to try to force Shaw to make plays passing the football. Although the Bulldogs undoubtedly know Shaw can beat them, they also know that Lattimore will beat them unless they focus on him. Shaw is still the unproven commodity here, and he's going to have to pass the ball well for us to win this game. The offensive line will also need to pass block better than it did last week in order to help Shaw do that.
We'll talk a bit about defense tomorrow.