Usually when we do these kind of opponent season outlook posts we don’t spend too much time reflecting on the prior season. But I’m making an exception for Mississippi State because we need to revisit just how bad LSU—and only LSU—was trying to defend Mike Leach’s air raid offense.
By now the numbers behind LSU’s infamous loss to State are burned in LSU’s fans minds: 44 points and an SEC record 623 passing yards allowed to KJ Costello. If other teams gave up similar numbers to the Bulldogs over the course of 2020 it would be one thing, but LSU was quite literally the only team to have issues with Mississippi State.
Mississippi State scored 44 points against LSU. Over the next four weeks the Bulldogs would score a total of 30 points, including a combined TWO against Kentucky and Alabama. Here’s KJ Costello’s numbers over those four weeks:
- Vs. Arkansas: 43/59, 313 yards, 1 TD/3 INTs
- Vs. Kentucky: 36/55, 232 yards, 0 TD/4 INTs
- Vs. Texas A&M: 16/22, 99 yards, 0 TD/1 INT
- Vs. Alabama: 4/11, 16 yards, 0 TD/0INT
Altogether that’s 99 completions on 147 attempts for 660 yards (4.4 yards per attempt; LSU allowed 10 yards per attempt) with 1 touchdown versus 8 interceptions. Bo Pelini you incompetent fool.
In fairness to State, the Bulldogs aren’t the pushover LSU fans had grown accustomed to. From 1992 to 2013 Mississippi State beat LSU once in 22 meetings; since then the series has evened out, with LSU leading 4-3 over the last seven. Still, the 44 points are the most LSU has allowed Mississippi State to score since 1983 and, it has to be said again, nobody else had this much trouble with Mike Leach’s offense. Again I say: Bo Pelini you incompetent fool. You should have been fired immediately after that game.
Mississippi State Bulldogs
2020: 4-7 (3-7 SEC)
2021 S&P Projections: 44th
2021 Recruiting Class: 26th
Head Coach: Mike Leach (4-7 through one year)
Offensive Coordinator: Mike Leach? Mississippi State’s website doesn’t list an offensive coordinator and Leach calls plays so for all intents and purposes let’s say it’s Leach
Defensive Coordinator: Zach Arnett
The KJ Costello roller coaster is over, now Will Rogers appears to be QB1 for Leach. The sophomore saw plenty of action in 2020, playing in nine games and starting six. It’s tough to gage how well he played though. On the one hand he piled up plenty of counting stats completing 239 passes the third most in a single season in program history and set a freshman record with 1,976 yards. On the other, as Posuer pointed out, he averaged five yards a pass and had an 11/7 touchdown-to-interception ratio. But we can’t ignore that Rogers, then a true freshman, had no spring or summer ball to adjust to the college game. How much of that matters? We’ll find out for sure this fall.
At the skill positions, the Bulldogs bring back some familiar faces and some of their big guns from 2020. Running back Kylin Hill and Osirus Mitchell are gone, but the cupboard isn’t empty. Rogers will have Jaden Walley (52 catches, 718 yards, 2 touchdowns), Austin Williams (43 catches, 372 yards, 3 touchdowns), and Malik Heath (37 catches, 307 yards, 3 touchdowns) to throw to. State also brings back running back Jo’Qavious Marks, an intriguing potential playmaker. Marks led Mississippi State in both rushing attempts (70) and catches (60) last season. Dillon Johnson is also back to share the load in the Bulldog backfield (51 carries, 231 yards, and a team-leading 4 touchdowns).
The offensive line, however, is a different matter. Poseur will delve into this deeper tomorrow, but the line only has 37 career starts coming back. Mississippi State does bring back both starting tackles and its center Cole Smith (who you may remember as a former Tiger), but needs to fill both its left and right guard spots.
Defensively the Bulldogs are in a pretty good spot but for one glaring weakness. Mississippi State brings back eight starters and defensive coordinator Zach Arnett who LSU had some interest in bringing to Baton Rogue. And for those of you who follow recruiting, one of the returning starters is Shawn Preston, older brother of four-star St. James wide receiver Shazz Preston the No. 4 player in Louisiana for the class of 2022.
The bad news is Arnett has to replace linebacker Erroll Thompson, who led the Bulldogs in tackles each of the past two seasons. Compounding the departure of Thompson is the loss both defensive end starters. Remember Arnett likes to run a 3-3-5 so losing the bulk of that triangle at the point of attack could lead to a step backwards in 2021.
Mississippi State Schedule
September 4: vs. Louisiana Tech
September 11: vs. North Carolina State
September 18: @ Memphis
September 25: vs. LSU
October 2: @ Texas A&M
October 9: BYE
October 16: vs. Alabama
October 23: @ Vanderbilt
October 30: vs. Kentucky
November 6: @ Arkansas
November 13: @ Auburn
November 20: vs. Tennessee State
November 25 (Thursday): vs. Ole Miss