How can Mississippi State football attack Southeastern Louisiana’s defense?
While the Lion’s are formidable on offense, their defense certainly has room for improvement. Last season they allowed 26 PPG and 395 YPG. They weren’t awful overall with mostly solid performances throughout the season. But the better offenses they faced found plenty of success against them.
Not much stands out when watching their defense. They’re going to stay in a four down front and primarily base out of two high coverages. They don’t send much pressure. They stay pretty conservative on defense, waiting for opposing offenses to make mistakes (+10 in turnover margin a year ago) and trusting their own offense to be more consistently effective.
At the end of the day, success on defense is much more correlated to talent level as opposed to scheme. And for that reason, you have to expect Mississippi State will simply be able to impose their will and “out-athlete” SLU.
That will be most notable along the lines of scrimmage. The average height and weight of SLU’s starting DL is just over 6’0 and 254 lbs. For MSU’s OL, the average is around 6’4, 314. If MSU wants to play bully ball, and the change in offensive philosophy suggests they will, they should easily be able to.
And SLU basing out of two high coverages means there’ll be plenty of opportunities for MSU to run the football with favorable numbers in the box (not that this defense should be dictating much at all of what MSU chooses to do offensively).
Though State could probably just run an old-school dive play on every rushing attempt with great success simply because of of the talent discrepancy, one run concept that seemed to give the Lions trouble was Counter. Counter has been out of State’s repertoire the last few years, as Mike Leach didn’t use your standard gap schemes in Starkville.
But it’s back in the playbook now under Kevin Barbay and is a concept I’d expect to see used fairly frequently this year. McNeese relied on it heavily against SLU on their way to 182 rushing yards. Here they are running Counter with their guard and H-back out of the pistol for a nice gain.
Despite playing fairly conservatively on defense, SLU was vulnerable to giving up deep shots to opposing passing attacks, and that was with a secondary featuring four All-Southland Conference players. Those four DBs are gone, and for a Mississippi State offense that wants to emphasize the vertical passing game going forward, I anticipate the Bulldogs to test SLU’s secondary frequently.
Here we see Idaho hitting a 70-yard TD against drop-eight coverage from SLU in the FCS playoffs. The right slot WR runs a corner-post, faking a Smash concept with the outside WR settling underneath. The double-move works to perfection, and he gets behind the safeties for the catch and run.
Kevin Barbay has made it clear he wants his offense to take several deep shots each game. We saw Will Rogers connect on a few of those in the spring game to Zavion Thomas and Justin Robinson. He’ll have his opportunities to hit them in real action on Saturday.