The Numbers Game: MSU’s Scoring Defense


Mississippi State is the talk of the nation right now, and deservedly so after dominating all five games they’ve played in – including two top ten ranked teams. While there has been a ton of attention to the offense which has produced at least 500 yards of total offense in each game and currently ranks 12th in the nation – the “Psycho Defense” hasn’t quite been given their due; in large part because of some distorted stats. But this is the Numbers Game, so we will correct that!

So far MSU ranks 22nd in the nation in scoring defense with 19.4 PPG. That’s good there’s not doubt about it, but it’s not quite as good as Ole Miss (2nd, 10.2 PPG) or Auburn (9th, 14.4) among others.

Then in SEC play things don’t look so good: MSU is 9th at 30 PPG.

In total defense Mississippi State is 86th with 429 YPG given up and 11th in the SEC with 478 YPG.

But these numbers are deceiving. As I mentioned earlier, MSU has blown out every team they’ve played. That’s led to a lot of garbage time, and some garbage time scoring by Bulldog opponents who are trying to do some window-dressing.

During the USM and USA games, neither team was able to put any points on the board during “garbage time”. They combined for just three points the entire game. So let’s take a look at the UAB, LSU and A&M games where each team scored anywhere from 29-34 points against MSU.

4th quarter, MSU up by at least 20 points

That’s right – in each game so far the Dawgs have had at least a 20 point lead going into the 4th quarter. That is a pretty substantial margin, and the validation that the entire quarter was treated as “garbage time” is the 2nd string bloopers that occurred against LSU, allowing them to get back into the game enough for a final hail Mary throw.  State actually had a 24 point lead in both SEC games heading into the 4th.

Here are the point totals of each of the three teams in the 4th quarter:

  • UAB: 7
  • LSU: 19
  • A&M: 14

That’s 40 points in total, and adds 8 full points to MSU’s scoring defense average.

If you shave those points off their average, all of the sudden MSU is 3rd in the nation in scoring defense. And the 30 PPG in SEC play becomes 13.5, and would put State at 2nd in the league.

The Psycho Defense has truly been “psycho” despite some padding of statistics that suggest otherwise.

It’s also interesting to note that LSU’s offensive line was noted as the best in the SEC until they played MSU. Then Texas A&M’s O-line was herolded as the best until they played MSU. Now Auburn’s OL is considered the best, and guess who’s on deck?