Mississippi State football is back and it’s time to get ready to watch Zach Arnett and the Mississippi State Bulldogs as they face the Southeastern Louisiana Lions.
Greetings fellow Mississippi State fans! It’s about that time to emerge from our months-long slumber and enjoy some football. Maybe you’ve been under a rock since the Reliaquest Bowl, or maybe you’ve been out-of-pocket since our baseball team, uh, walked like 12 batters in 7 innings in the spring.
Either way, you’ll get no judgment from me!
“But JK,” you say, “I’ve followed our entire spring football season. I’ve been reading up on fall camp. I haven’t slumbered at all.”
That’s great! This is for you too!
I’m here to help prepare you for the first test of the young Mississippi State season. It’s a game against (checks compass) Southeastern Louisiana University.
Southeastern Louisiana University is a school in, well, southeastern Louisiana. Hammond, Louisiana to be exact.
Now, if you’re wondering, in the hierarchy of Louisiana collegiate athletics, Directional Louisiana falls beneath the obvious LSU, but also University of Louisiana In-Some-City and Tulane. And of course, you can also go to the technical school in Ruston and still play for a more prestigious football program than Directional Louisiana.
I say “directional”, because you might be remembering a blowout game from 2015 against Northwestern Louisiana and thinking, ‘Oh no, this is the exact opposite of Northwestern Louisiana! What if we lose 13 to 62!’ and that would be dumb.
It’s not the same school, but it’s in the same hierarchy.
So what is the best case scenario against a team like SLU? Well, it’s a massive blowout. And then some.
The best thing we could see from Dear ol’ State is a dominant performance in all phases of the game. MSU has a brand new offensive coordinator and a brand new defensive coordinator. Zach Arnett is in his first year as a head coach. If we can dominate on offense, defense and special teams, it will build a lot of confidence moving forward.
On offense, the best we can do is score at will using all of our skill players. We’ve seen Will Rogers throw the football around for the past few years, and I expect that to continue in week 1. But in our first year post-Air Raid, it would be amazing to see us run the ball up and down the field.
On defense, I want to see a shutdown performance from our secondary. SLU has a massive wideout in 6’4″ Maurice Massey who figures to play a big role in their offense, as Andrew Miller explained in his preview. It’s a big early test for a group coalescing after the departure of NFL 1st Round pick Emmanuel Forbes.
OK BUT WHAT IF IT’S NOT PERFECT FOR THE MISSISSIPPI STATE BULLDOGS?
Mississippi State is obviously turning a new leaf this season with so much new leadership across the board coaching-wise. What if things don’t click immediately?
The good news is we shouldn’t have to worry about losing the game. Even if things don’t go perfectly, we should still beat a team like Southeastern Louisiana with ease. Maybe we have some issues with a transition to a more run-pass balanced attack on offense. Maybe we have trouble getting aligned against SLU’s exotic offensive formations. It’s possible that even in a comfortable win, we still see some growing pains from an MSU team in flux following the transition from late legendary coach Mike Leach.
If we see some issues arise in our first game this fall, it could affect the expectations we have for the rest of our season.
RED ALERT WORST CASE SCENARIO
Even in a disaster scenario, I still expect us to win. At worst, we may see a Mississippi State Bulldogs team that is woefully delayed in adjusting to our own coaching changes.
In a game that we are expected to win by several touchdowns, even a double digit win might ring the cowbells’ death nell for the season. Will Rogers might look lost in a new offensive scheme. The SLU offense might expose weakness in a defense no longer directly led by Zach Arnett. I hate to even put this thought into the universe, but a brand new head coach might struggle with game management.
If we don’t win this game by three or more touchdowns, we might need to re-assess our expectations for the season.
WHAT’S REALISTIC FOR THE MISSISSIPPI STATE BULLDOGS
Despite a coaching staff in transition, the Mississippi State Bulldogs have a LOT of veteran starters and older players. I can’t speak for everyone, but I was a lot smarter (more mature, less emotional, etc.) at 22 than I was at 18. Luckily, many of our projected starters are seniors or graduates. That should help us going into this season.
I expect us to handily dismiss the Lions of SLU. But I do expect some snafus from this team in the new season. I don’t think the game will be perfect, but I expect us to go into week 2 with some confidence that this team could be special.