Mississippi State’s Potential Rocky Start

What teams have the most to gain or lose due to the limited training schedule? First squad up is Mississippi State. 

Due to the COVID situation, college football programs’ are being affected. There is not a spring practice or usual off season training program. In Starkville, the effects of this could impact the chemistry for the season. With a new head coach/OC and a transfer quarterback, the offensive scheme will be shifting a full 180. Plus, they will bring in a new DC as well. Transitioning from Joe Moorhead to Mike Leach requires a full offseason plus some regular seasons games to get acclimated. 

Wazzu’s First Season under Leach (2012)

When Leach went from the CBS booth to Wazzu, the first season had some hiccups. Some may forget he had a coaching break between Texas Tech and Wazzu. The Cougars ended 3-9 overall and 1-8 in conference. They did not gently ease into the scheme as the Air Raid was in full effect from the first game. Leach called a passing play on 74.27 percent of total plays. Even without the productivity, there are minimal thoughts on running the ball in his offense. Sure, the returning talent on this 2012 Cougars was not up to par, but a full upheaval of an offense can be rocky. 

Play Calling: Wazzu vs Miss St. (2019)

Team Plays per GameRankPassing Play %RankRushing Play %Rank
Miss St.6710739.1811360.8218
Wazzu73.63977.92122.08130

To say Moorhead and Leach have different styles is stating it lightly. Last season, Miss State ran the ball 529 total times compared to Wazzu’s 202 attempts. Don’t worry, the numbers aren’t skewed for either side. Miss State was not up late and constantly running the ball. In the SEC and given their roster talent, running the ball was the only option. Consistent passing plays from the Bulldogs led them to three and outs with less than a minute of possession. It will be noteworthy to monitor their total 3 and outs per game in the SEC and compare against last season. 

Anthony Gordon, Wazzu QB last season, was built for the spread passing attack style. It was a match made in heaven that did not produce a winning record. Starting the season ranked 23rd overall and saw them reach as high as 19th in season, ultimately ending unranked at 6-7 with a bowl loss. After four straight winning seasons, Leach’s squad regressed more than many expected. The offense was not the issue, producing 505 total yards per game with 435 coming from the air. It was their defense surrendering 453 yards per game. 

Does Miss State have the roster to switch schemes? Only 17 teams attempted less passing plays per game last season and they are projected to be in the top 5 at the end of next season. 

Returning Production

Bill Connelly of ESPN calculated that the Bulldogs are returning 54 percent of their offensive production from last season. This ranks 84th overall. However, the Air Raid under Leach utilizes four wide receivers. The depth chart is not loaded with talent at wideout. Keep your eyes on Osirus Mitchell, who has the most to gain in the new offense. He returns as their leading receiver with 29 receptions and 430 total yards in 2019. Expect his output to see a large increase nearing 70 or more receptions and 700 plus yards. Mitchell has top 5 SEC quality at receiver and more targets can show that. 

Kylin Hill stands the second most to gain. His rush attempts will decrease but total yards should not. Hill will be targeted on short passess out of the backfield. Last season, starting running back Max Borghi rushed for 6.4 yards per attempt and 6.9 yards per catch. Expect Hill to average more than 6 receptions per game.

K.J. Costello

Last but not least, the man that gets to run the show. Transfering from Stanford, Costello has the arm necessary to run the Air Raid. Plus, he’s coming from a similar passing offense, so it may not take him as much time to get adjusted. His health is their biggest concern since he missed 5 games last season. If the season starts on time, he is expected to be fully healthy so it will be up to the offensive line to keep him upright. In Costello’s last season, he could eclipse 4000 passing yards. 

Schedule and Win Total 

Miss State is currently listed at 6.5 wins (Over +150, Under -170). Vegas seems to think they are a fringe bowl team that will end with exactly 6 wins. They will be tested to start the season against N.C. State and Tulane. Did you notice I included Tulane and not Arkansas? That’s the state of the Razorbacks programs. If the offense is not up to speed, an upset is not out of the realm of possibility. They cannot afford a hiccup early in the season with a brutal October of SEC games (Texas A&M, Alabama, LSU and Auburn). Entering November, the Bulldogs could be 2-6. 

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