Game 1 is in the books for the Mississippi State football team and now we look ahead to the Week 2 matchup between the Bulldogs and the Arizona Wildcats.
Well, last week went about how the “realistic expectations” section laid it out. The Mississippi State football team easily dispatched the Lions from Southeastern Louisiana, but there were still some question marks that popped up.
Either way, the second half of last week’s game should give us some confidence heading into a matchup with Arizona.
This is the second part of a home-and-home series with the Wildcats that started last year in Tucson. If you want to know what Tucson is like, just set your oven to broil, leave the door open and stand there.
“It’s a dry heat though!”
Yeah, and so is a pottery kiln.
Normally in this section I’ll talk a little smack about our opponent, but this week I’m having a tough time doing that. I went to the game last year and was blown away by how nice all of the Arizona fans were. I can’t be mean now! And besides, I don’t have much ammo anyway.
This week you’re stuck with my mild disdain for the city in Arizona I’d least like to move to, which happens to house the University of Arizona. The city with the silent “C” in the middle of it (seriously, what?).
Enough about the giant beach without an ocean. What heights could the Mississippi State football team reach this week?
It’s possible for the Bulldogs to beat the Wildcats even worse than they did last year. Heck, we lost two fumbles and Will Rogers had an interception that bounced off of his receiver’s hands. We won by 22 points, but we easily could have had the game in hand well before we did.
Granted, Arizona is generally thought of as a much better team this year than the 5-7 team from last year. But what if they aren’t? Arizona still has the same quarterback, and if we can limit the big plays that the Wildcats had last year that kept them within 8 points heading into the 4th quarter, they may not score at all.
On the Bulldog’s offensive side, we come into this game with a brand new offense that has minimal film for the Arizona defense to work from. Surprisingly, we had 24 rush attempts in this game in 2022, and while the number might not be much different this year, the concepts will be.
Ultimately, our best-case scenario might be winning by several touchdowns.
We know things don’t normally go perfect for our beloved Bulldogs. So what could go wrong? The answer: a lot.
Arizona hit the transfer portal hard over the off-season and has notably improved the talent level of their defensive line. If they can push around the MSU offensive line that is still transitioning to a less pass-centric scheme, the day could be long for the Bulldogs. Couple that with a pass offense that is not what it was a year ago and we could really struggle to score points against this team.
Couple that with an opponent with a senior quarterback who can be a threat on the ground as much or more than he can kill you with his arm, and Mississippi State could be playing catchup for most of the night. If the Dogs struggle again to limit big plays and can’t force mistakes from the veteran signal caller, it could get ugly.
In the red alert worst case scenario, I don’t think we lose by multiple touchdowns, but I worry we could be struggling to stay within one score.
WHAT’S REALISTIC FOR THE MISSISSIPPI STATE FOOTBALL TEAM?
I expect this matchup to look different than last year.
I don’t think we’ll see as many turnovers from either side, and I think both teams will have moments of success. All in all, I think MSU has the better team and should win by 7-10 points. As long as the transition to the new offense continues as effectively as it did in the second half against SLU, I think the Bulldogs are safe from an upset.
Whereas in the best case scenario, I imagine us heading into our game with LSU in week 3 with oodles of confidence, I think we will see enough struggles to keep expectations relatively low against the Tigers. The game against Arizona sets itself up to be stressful, with plenty of yelling at your TV.
An upset loss could alter expectations for the entire Bulldog season, but even with the stress I expect us to win.