MWN roundtable: Mississippi State football vs. Arizona Wildcats preview

Sep 2, 2023; Starkville, Mississippi, USA; Mississippi State Bulldogs running back Jo'Quavious Marks (7) dives over Southeastern Louisiana Lions defensive back Ian Goodly (4) during the second quarter at Davis Wade Stadium at Scott Field. Mandatory Credit: Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 2, 2023; Starkville, Mississippi, USA; Mississippi State Bulldogs running back Jo'Quavious Marks (7) dives over Southeastern Louisiana Lions defensive back Ian Goodly (4) during the second quarter at Davis Wade Stadium at Scott Field. Mandatory Credit: Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports /

We’ve got a Mississippi State football game to preview. So, we got the staff together to chat about the Bulldogs’ matchup with the Arizona Wildcats.

Another week, more Mississippi State football. And another opportunity for the Mississippi State Bulldogs to get a non-conference win. This week, Zach Arnett and his Miss. State Bulldogs are bringing the Arizona Wildcats to town.

This game could get intriguing as Arizona’s offense is pretty impressive. The wildcats could provide a unique challenge for the Bulldogs.

Or maybe this is a game that Mississippi State is just able to win and win with relative ease.

The Maroon and White Nation staff had a variety of thoughts on the matter. So let’s go over the records from our chat and start looking at what this MSU football game against the Arizona Wildcats might be like.

Maroon and White Nation staff roundtable: Mississippi State football preview vs. Arizona Wildcats

Ethan Lee: I’d love to know y’all’s thoughts on Mississippi State’s upcoming game against Arizona. What did y’all see in week 1 that was a concern for you as MSU heads into week 2? Where do you think MSU will thrive in this game? I know some of y’all made fun of me for being concerned about how good Arizona’s offense might be (even though State did better than anyone else did at handling that offense last season), but it seems like there are now some similar concerns in our group chat.What’re y’all thinking?

Andrew Miller: I’m concerned about MSU’s secondary against Zona’s receivers. They’re got a loaded group of pass catchers, and State has 4 new starters on the back end.

Now I do think they have the advantage up front on defense. I doubt Zona finds much success running the ball against MSU, though they don’t run it much anyways. They should be able to pressure de Laura, but can they get him the ground? That’ll be one of the biggest questions for the defense.

Daniel Potts: I found the lack of pressure from the edge to be the most concerning weakness in State’s defense during the opener. If De Laura is able to roll out to the left or right at will, he’s going to find open guys and open running lanes much to often.

Andrew Miller: Yeah I expect Zona to get some points. But I think State should score plenty, too. I don’t know that they’ll simply run all over them like many State fans expect because Zona has greatly improved their D-line talent. But State’s overall offensive talent still greatly outweighs what Zona has, and I expect the offense to have a nice day.

Ryan Strickland: Main concern for me was how slow the offense started out against the level of opponent they played. New scheme and all that I understand but it was a FCS level school. Will Rogers and the offensive line have to be better. We cannot rely on Woody Marks and smash mouth running all year if we want to get that 8/9 win season everyone is hoping for.

Justin Strawn: Real talk time.

People who were concerned about Mississippi State football coming into this season saw what they wanted to at points in last week’s game and convinced them they were right about their concerns. The people who are optimistic about the season saw points where they were convinced they were right about their optimism.

Personally, I saw a team that struggled out of the gate and continued to improve as the game went on. I’m still thinking this looks like a 7 or 8 regular season win team.

As for Arizona, I haven’t been concerned about them coming into this season, and I still am not concerned. It’s a game State should win by 10-20 points.

Andrew Miller: For me it’s less MSU and more Zona. Their offense is legitimately good, and there are questions on the MSU defense at the exact spots where Zona could take advantage. And while they, like MSU, were playing a FCS opponent in Week 1, I was impressed by how their DL looked. With MSU making some adjustments along their OL, that might be a concern. I expect MSU to ultimately win, but I think it’s close.

Ethan Lee: I’m in a similar boat as Andrew.

I’m not downplaying MSU here, I’m just a bit worried about Arizona’s ability to get into track meets with teams. Jayden de Laura threw for 3,685 yards and 25 touchdowns last year. Michael Wiley ran for 771 yards and 8 touchdowns while averaging 6.8 yards per carry and catching 36 passes for 349 yards and 3 touchdowns. Jacob Cowing caught 85 passes for 1,034 yards and seven touchdowns in 2022. That offense is legit and can put up points in a hurry.

Just ask UCLA and USC.

Justin Strawn: I would ask their opinion but the UCLA and USC defenses were trash last year. The few times they faced a quality defense, namely State and Oregon, they were held in check.

Ethan Lee: I don’t think you’re wrong there. I pointed this out in a summer preview, but the Mississippi State football team’s defense did better than any other team at stopping Arizona’s offense. Still, the possibility that their offense might be a hair better than it was a season ago and the possibility that MSU’s defense might be a hair worse should be enough to give some folks some pause before writing off Arizona right now.

Justin Strawn: I expect the game to be similar to last year. It’ll be close for a little while, and Arizona might make some noise, but State eventually pulls away.

Daniel Potts: While I expect State to outlast Arizona in the end, it should be a closer final score than it was last year. There’s still going to be some growing pains with offensive adjustment for State while Arizona should be a somewhat more efficient version of what they were last year

Ryan Strickland: I think Tulu being banged up most of the first half and having Zavion out did not help Will as they are the two big impact players at his disposal. I expect Will to be better and I expect the OL to be better and start out stronger this week. Secondary will be tested this week in a big way based off of what has been said previously but I think they step up to the challenge. Might not be the prettiest performance but I do not think they get burnt to a crisp. The biggest concern on defense is the edges and containing them.

John King: Last year I was very excited to be in Tucson for the game. I sat on the home sideline for the #chairbacks. I fully expected us to manhandle them all game and so did all of their fans. And then their offense had several big plays and they kept it close for a while. Give them a year in the system and more time for DeLaura to mature and I think they will be a much more formidable opponent.

Brooks Hill: A Mobile QB + aggressive passing attack with decent to good receivers will be a good test for our defense. I don’t expect us to lose or for the game to be truly close at any point. I expect our offense to get started up a little earlier, therefore prediction for me is 45-28.

Does Mississippi State have the chance to lose this game in true Mississippi State fashion?


Justin Strawn: Losing a game in true Mississippi State fashion is never not a concern.

Ryan Strickland: I agree if De Laura can roll around and not be under pressure more times than not then it’s going to potentially be a track meet and things are going to get uncomfortable. If we can get De Laura under consistent pressure and make him uncomfortable, he will make a mistake or two based on his history. I think State will thrive with utilizing Zavion/Tulu/Creed to help make Woody’s time establishing a run game easier because with Arizona’s transfers on the DL it might be a littler tougher to establish a consistent run game than most think. Also think State’s DL will establish some dominance pretty early by their performance last week but they have to be better at containing the edges. It’ll be a little uncomfortable early but State will start to pull away in the second half and have a pretty comfortable win by the end. Two scores minimum is what we should win by in my opinion.

Ethan Lee: So, how’re we feeling about the state of the SEC at this point? Anything overly concerning to you after one week of football? Are you convincing yourself that LSU is mortal or do you plan on sticking with the line of logic that the tigers will still be too much for MSU until we know for a fact otherwise?

Andrew Miller: Milroe looked good for Bama in his debut, albeit against a mediocre CUSA team. Not yet writing off LSU. I think FSU was a bad matchup for them. SCAR has major issues outside of their passing game. A&M might just have fixed their offense, but again, it’s a bad opponent. Hard to take much away from the other results of State’s future SEC opponents beyond that they all dominated opponents like you’d expect them too.

Ethan Lee: I’m really glad FSU isn’t on our schedule this year. Billy Napier is going to have so much fun losing to them by a thousand points

Ryan Strickland: No one should be writing off LSU just yet. They’re going to be just fine. FSU is a playoff contender and has a loaded roster. They will beat Florida by whatever they want to beat them by and Napier will be headed back to the Sun Belt.

Ethan Lee: Future Arkansas State Red Wolves head coach Billy Napier has a nice ring to it. (please go to Jonesboro, Billy)

Ryan Strickland: A&M was the team that stood out to me because of how they struggled week in and week out last year. Don’t know if they will put it all together like they can but they should be excited over there right now after last week.

Ethan Lee: If A&M was smart, they’d tank for GJ Kinne. Just lose enough games this year. Maybe have a linebacker fight a quarterback or something. Get a new head coach who is exciting and scores a lot of points with a unique offense. Wear maroon. Things of that nature. We’ve never seen anything like any of that unfold anywhere before.

Ryan Strickland: SEC will be fine. They’ll have two/three great to elite teams and the rest will be good to average like it’s been for a decade.

Next. College football week 2: 3 under the radar games to watch. dark