2022 Mississippi St. Bulldogs Preview

by Matt Fargo

Mississippi St. Bulldogs

2021-22 Season Record 7-6 (4-4 SEC West) - 7-6-0 ATS - 6-7-0 O/U

Returning Starters

Offense - 8
Defense - 8

Overview

Playing in the SEC since its inception has had its good and bad for Mississippi St. but it has never been great. Things were looking good over a decade ago but former head coach Dan Mullin left a really good situation in Starkville to make a lateral move to Florida, which at the time looked like an upgrade, and that clearly did not work out. Eight straight seasons of a record of .500 or better playing in the SEC would be the envy of most coaches but he tossed it away and the reigns were given to Joe Morehead which was not the right fit so in came Mike Leach and things look different. The COVID season of 2020 was what it was but three losses by three points or less last season showed that this is a team on the rise only to get better. Both sides of the ball improved and while competing with Alabama in the SEC West is still a ways off, this could be the season that dictates things to come.

Offense

There was a drop off in 2020 with the offense but that year was an aberration for a lot of teams and we saw an increase of nearly 100 ypg and over a touchdown uptick last season with potentially more on the way. The Bulldogs finished No. 23 in total offense but struggled at times getting the ball in the endzone and now with eight starters back, more consistency should emerge. Quarterback Will Rogers came into his own as he completed over 75 percent of his passes for 4,739 yards with 36 touchdowns and only nine interceptions and he could be even better if there is any hint of a running game. His two top targets are gone but there is not a downgrade in wide receiver and more big plays will transpire. The offensive line has to replace both tackles but the tandem of Dillon Johnson and Jo'quavious Marks at running back showed promise despite a limited amount of carries.

Defense

While Leach is known for the offense, the defense was great, finishing No. 22 overall and while the scoring average was higher than they would have liked, it was put in some tough situations. The stop unit also returns eight starters and there are playmakers at all levels led by the linebackers that will again be all over the field. Jett Johnson and Nathaniel Watson combined for 169 tackles last season and with upgrades around them, they should be even better. The rushing defense finished No. 10 in the country as the defensive line was a wall and it needs to get a bigger push into the backfield. Mississippi St. was just No. 72 in the nation in sacks and that should go up which will help the passing defense that gave up too many big plays. The safeties will have a bigger impact in the second go around in this system and the corners will show improvement via the transfer portal.

2022 Season Outlook

Mississippi St. was No. 9 in the country in time of possession on offense but it will gladly take a decrease in that to produce more big plays and there is a lot of depth on the defense that can withstand more time on the field. The Bulldogs have not finished ranked in the top ten since 1940 and while Mullin got them into the top 20 three times, bigger things are expected and Leach has the pieces in place to make that move. A 4-0 start to the season is feasible with a pair of home games against Memphis and Bowling Green sandwiched around road games at Arizona and LSU. The schedule ramps up with the final eight games against teams that averaged over 10 wins last season so that upward move has plenty of roadblocks. The O/U win total is set at 6.5 and seven home games helps but there looks to be only six games where they will be favored meaning upsets are necessary. 

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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