The Mississippi State Bulldogs (6-4) take a step back from SEC play this weekend to take on the East Tennessee State Buccaneers (3-7).
By Steve Wright
Here is a look at the three keys for Mississippi State:
1 – Don’t Overlook It
A kickoff at 11 am central time in what will be a hard game to bring the energy for is hardly ideal for Mike Leach and the Bulldogs. The Georgia game was disappointing – maybe not so much with the result as the way that the Bulldogs were outclassed – and with the Egg Bowl against OIe Miss up next, this is going to be easy to look past. This is something that ETSU will be counting on, hoping to stun the Bulldogs early and put the pressure on the home side in Starkville. Look for the Bulldogs to start slowly and build into this game.
2 – Can There Be Balance?
You generally know what you are going to get from a Leach offense. There will be gazillions of passing yards on short/mid throws, with the wide receivers and running backs expected to make plays after the catch. There will also be nothing in the running game to keep the defense guessing. This tracks in 2022, with the Bulldogs being No. 8 in the country in passing offense at 319 yards per game and No. 130 in rushing with 77.3 yards per game. It is what kills Mississippi State against the Georgias and Alabamas of the world, but it allows them to excel in games like this against an overmatched foe.
3 – More Special Teams Magic
One area going well for the Bulldogs is on special teams. A 92-yard kickoff return against Auburn from Tulu Griffin for a touchdown was followed up when Zavion Thomas returned a punt 63 yards to the house against Georgia. Touchdowns are amazing on special teams – there is a direct correlation between these scores and wins – but the ability of the Mississippi State returners means that they have been flipping field position on their opponents all season. Three touchdowns in three weeks is not out of the question for this unit.