MWN roundtable: Where does Mississippi State football go after LSU loss?

STARKVILLE, MISSISSIPPI - SEPTEMBER 16: Malik Nabers #8 of the LSU Tigers catches a touchdown pass against Hunter Washington #21 of the Mississippi State Bulldogs during the first half at Davis Wade Stadium on September 16, 2023 in Starkville, Mississippi. (Photo by Justin Ford/Getty Images)
STARKVILLE, MISSISSIPPI - SEPTEMBER 16: Malik Nabers #8 of the LSU Tigers catches a touchdown pass against Hunter Washington #21 of the Mississippi State Bulldogs during the first half at Davis Wade Stadium on September 16, 2023 in Starkville, Mississippi. (Photo by Justin Ford/Getty Images) /

Mississippi State football produced pretty miserable results Saturday afternoon. We’re trying to make sense of that disastrous loss to the LSU Tigers. 

Zach Arnett was handed his first loss as the head coach of the Mississippi State football team on Saturday afternoon and the Bulldogs are now tasked with figuring out how to move forward after that disastrous game against the LSU Tigers.

Where do the Bulldogs go from here? Is it time for a quarterback controversy? Should Kevin Barbay and Arnett turn to Mike Wright to lead the offense? Can MSU really compete in the SEC this season?

Let’s chat about that.

This week, we had the following in to discuss the Bulldogs:

Maroon and White Nation roundtable: Examining the Bulldogs’ horrible loss to the LSU Tigers

Ethan Lee: Saturday was rough. Quite possibly the worst offensive performance I’ve seen State put up. MSU now, statistically speaking, has the worst passing offense in the SEC.

I’ve seen folks say that there’s still plenty of season left, but I’ve yet to see anything that would indicate that Saturday was a fluke and that this team will turn things around in a hurry. This is now two weeks in a row of dreadful offense.

What’re y’all thinking? Where does MSU go from here?

Ryan Strickland: Where to begin? Defensively, it was just a disastrous gameplan and nothing was done to adjust. The Head Coach of this program has done as good of a job as anyone containing and keeping LSU offenses in check as a DC and look what happened. I don’t know if he trusts Brock too much or his attention is elsewhere which I’ll hit on here in a minute. If the defense does not turn it around, there is a legit chance this team does not win a single SEC game this year. That’s all I’ll really say on the defense.

John King: Early in the season I thought the coaching was the problem on offense, but it’s clear that the coaching, the blocking, and the quarterback all deserve an equal share of blame. It was the worst overall offensive performance we’ve seen since Moorhead was around.

On defense there were a few head scratchers like guarding the best LSU receiver with a safety, but you just can’t expect the defense to keep a team from scoring when the offense is a 3-and-out factory of ineptitude

Ryan Strickland: The offense is just a complete train wreck. The OL looks confused and undisciplined. Rogers had probably his worst game of his entire career. OL didn’t help him but when he did have time he just completely failed.

I just can’t believe this is Barbay’s offense. Arnett has to be meddling in it. If that is not the case, Barbay is either a historically bad hire or he has the wrong QB in there and that’s not to degrade Rogers. His skill set just cannot make this offense work and you need someone back there that can move and threaten the defense with his legs.

If the OL is bad, you better be able to move and he just can’t move in an effective way to keep things alive. The lack of usage of Wright when the game was out of hand was disappointing. Creed and Zavion are just there. They’re not being utilized. I don’t understand that. I just don’t understand anything about this offense and it is nothing that was said it was going to be in the off-season. These past few weeks have been on coaching mostly. I have about as much confidence in stopping a train with my shoulder like Superman as I do in this coaching staff. They just do not seem to know what they are doing or what they even want to do.

Trey Burke: I’m a little reluctant to even chime in, I checked out on this early part of the season largely because it’s been convenient to do so, and for that reason I feel undeserving of an opinion.


If you’re an optimist, you’re going to point at last season. State played two weird games and hit a roughhhhhh patch before finding an identity and playing pretty well. An optimist would also tell you the 2022 Bulldogs had an oftentimes awful offense and was also unstoppable enough to win 9 games in an SEC that was better than this year’s SEC.

But another kind of optimist will tell you 2023 was destined to be a mess after a legendary coach passed away and we gutted all that remained of his program in Starkville. They’ll also tell you that Arnett’s buyout is minimal and the AD isn’t attached to the hire.

Really, it’s all house money from here. Go play golf (and I’m calling out anti-golf extremist Ethan Lee here so he can’t cancel me). It’s about to be time for a fall overseed. Go dove hunting, IDK. The Braves are historically good this year. Football will still be there for you if the Bulldogs turn it around.

Ryan Strickland: Some of the quotes from Arnett after the game were very, very concerning. There’s no identity and there’s no discipline and structure. We are heading to worst case scenario territory if the team does not look better Saturday. They have to look better and win. It’s a must win game now with how they’ve looked so far. To paraphrase the late great philosopher Macho Man Randy Savage, the program is unjustifiably in a position they’d rather not be in and I do not know if the coaching staff knows how to get out of it.

Justin Strawn: I always try to look on the bright side, and the bright side I see is the SEC is really not good this year. Could  Mississippi State be the absolute worst program of all the bad? Sure, but Arkansas, South Carolina, Auburn, and Texas A&M don’t seem like they are really any better. Heck, Alabama looks like they’re very beatable this year. It all depends on if this coaching staff can figure anything out. This isn’t their first rodeo, so I’m going to keep my fingers crossed and hope they do.

Ethan Lee: I don’t know if I entirely agree with the “this isn’t their first rodeo” bit. These guys have coaching experience, but this is Arnett’s first time as a head coach, Barbay’s first time as an offensive coordinator in the SEC, and Brock’s first time as a defensive coordinator. It seems like it’s fair to say that there’s a lot these three guys in particular are having to learn on the fly.

That said, Arnett was considered by many as a name to watch for a lot of coaching openings down the road prior to being promoted by State. These guys are bright football minds. There’s a chance they do learn and get things turned around.

Andrew Miller: I think you saw that the losses at DE, SAM LB, and the secondary were far bigger deals than most fans wanted to admit. They couldn’t get pressure and were terrible in coverage. Daniels didn’t take off much (though of course he was effective when he did) because Nabers was wide open every play. Not finding a way to double Nabers and well as leave just tons of space underneath to allow easy completions was just bad coaching.

On offense, it’s bad all around. Will doesn’t fit this offense. And I know they tried running concepts that are “Air Raid” in nature, but it’s very clear he’s not comfortable in this system yet. It doesn’t help that the OL is horrendous. All we heard all offseason was the idea that the scheme would be adjusted to put the players in the best position to succeed. And that’s not what they’re doing.

Ethan Lee: From that perspective, do you try to go even more Air Raid in nature? Get away from the pro spread sort of system and run a lot more mesh (or mesh rail) from 4-wide sets?

Also, to Trey’s point, go fishing or dove hunting. Golf is of the devil.

Justin Strawn: Arnett seems to be pretty anti-Air Raid. I don’t see him going back to anything that resembles it.

Ethan Lee: I’m anti-golf, but if it brings Mississippi State another national title, I’ll get a golf-inspired tattoo. At some point, you’ve gotta be willing to change.

Andrew Miller: You’d first have to show defenses that if they blitz, you’re going to make them pay. Even with quick passes, if you’ve got free rushes coming at the QB like you had Saturday, you’re in trouble. But it also hinges on Will and his WRs being on the same page, and they aren’t.

Ryan Strickland: You’ve got a HC that’s been a DC his whole career that really can’t put any input into the offense that is helpful and an OC that’s ran the same offense everywhere he’s been and it’s seemingly not going to work with who he has at QB. It’s a disaster scenario of hoping there is any adjustment they can make to help Will succeed. I think their best bet is a QB change at this point. Barbay has tried both ways of his offense and he almost lost one and got shellacked in the other. It’s not a great situation. It’s just not.

John King: I think the offense needs a complete reset. If you are committed to Will Rogers, you ask him what he feels comfortable with and start there. You come up with easy ways to get the ball to your playmakers. If you can’t fix the blocking, do your best to try to get the ball out quickly and/or simplify the run schemes.

It doesn’t need to be run Barbay’s way or Arnett’s way, it just needs to work. We’re in the desert. We don’t need a Lamborghini we just need something that’s going to get us to water.