Mike Leach and the Mississippi State Bulldogs are having an up and down year. As the SEC gets more and more used to Leach’s preferred offensive scheme, good results for the Bulldogs have been harder to come by.
By Matt Zemek
Oddly enough, they’ve found their greatest success in some of their toughest games. They beat a ranked N.C. State team only to lose to Memphis and LSU before beating a ranked Texas A&M team that just beat Alabama this weekend. Now the Tide, fresh off a loss to an unranked opponent for the first time in Nick Saban’s history with the Tide, are traveling to Starkville for a chance to rebound.
Let’s take a look at how Leach and the Bulldogs can come away with an upset victory which would knock Bama out of the College Football Playoff.
1 – Be ready for four quarters of play
Any chance Mississippi State had of catching Alabama on an off week went out the window with the loss to Texas A&M. The Tide are going to be worked to the bone this week in practice. All the mistakes they made against A&M will be displayed in the film sessions and worked on in practice. This means the Bulldogs are going to have to beat the Tide straight up. That means being prepared for four quarters of war. While that’s always usually the case with Alabama, it’s probably more pointed coming off a loss. It applies in a special way this week.
2 – The rushing offense simply must improve
The Bulldogs will need to work on cutting down the mistakes and finding ways to create yardage on the ground. The Bulldogs are literally last in the NCAA through the current week in rushing offense — not just last in the SEC, but dead last in the FBS with 56.2 rushing yards per game. That’s not gonna cut it. Even worse than that, their average yards per rush is only 3.02. As a team, they’ve managed only 281 rushing yards across five games. Some players rush for 281 yards in a game, never mind five games. Furthermore, 56 yards isn’t going to cut it against Alabama in particular. State has to be able to change the equation with its ground game, punching above its weight. It will take an unlikely performance (much like Texas A&M) to topple the Tide.
3 – Will Rogers must play mistake-free football
Bulldogs quarterback Will Rogers must have as close to a perfect game as he can manage if he hopes to lead his team to victory over the Tide. He’s currently No. 48 in the nation in passing efficiency. That’s actually pretty good. While he’s still behind six other SEC quarterbacks, all that really means is that the SEC features some really efficient passers in 2021. If Rogers can improve his efficiency and sharpen his accuracy on downfield strikes, Rogers is more than capable of providing ballast to the Mississippi State ship. It will be up to his teammates to pitch in and help him steer this offense to safe harbor.