STARKVILLE, MS - December 12, 2020 - Mississippi State Wide Receiver Jaden Walley (#31) during the game between the Auburn Tigers and the Mississippi State Bulldogs at Davis Wade Stadium at Scott Field in Starkville, MS. Photo By Austin Perryman
2020 Results: 4-7, 3-7 (SEC)
2021 Projection: 5-6
There were moments early in the 2020 season where Mississippi State looked ready to prove that Mike Leach’s offensive wizardry would work wonders in the SEC. However those moments came few and far between as the season rolled along, and the opening campaign for the new Bulldog’s coach sputtered to a 4-7 ending
Without a doubt the key question the Bulldogs face entering the 2021 season is who will start at quarterback. Will Rogers had moments of greatness in 2020 but never truly found his groove. Incoming freshman Sawyer Robertson could give Rogers a run for the starting job.
No matter which quarterback triumphs and ends up leading the way for the offense, expect State to be able to put up some numbers with almost the whole offensive unit returning from 2020. That means the offense has had a full year to digest and learn the new offensive system Leach brought with him. That familiarity should help pay dividends.
Defensively, the Bulldogs have good returning players across the defensive line, linebacking corps and defensive secondary, but their depth is a huge problem. After the first teamers, State doesn’t have tons of experience, so a few injuries could spell trouble for the Bulldogs especially when the defense could be called on to play a lot more snaps if the offense gets humming.
The Bulldogs’ schedule doesn’t do them any favors with early games against Louisiana Tech, N.C. State and Memphis, all teams poised to make bowl games in 2020. The SEC West slate starts early and tough as well with the Bulldogs facing LSU, Texas A&M and Alabama by mid October, meaning they could be out of the SEC West race before Halloween rolls around.
The second half of the schedule isn’t as brutal, and if the Bulldogs can weather the injuries on the defensive side of things and get the quarterback position straight early, they could pull out enough wins to get to a bowl game.
The biggest question will be whether Mike Leach and his offense can make a big enough jump in year two to become a big thorn in the side of other SEC West coaches.