Today is the fifth day of Gridiron Heroics’ SEC preview ahead of the 2022 of the 2022 season. Each day, we will break down one team from the East and West Division. Giving you a position-by position analysis, and tell you what they need to do to advance to the postseason. Join as we delve deep into the South’s spectacular obsession, SEC football.
We break down the 14 teams that make up the SEC. Check it out, team by team:
SEC CONF. PREVIEW: Overall SEC Conf. Preview
SEC EAST PREVIEWS: Florida | Georgia | Kentucky | Mizzou | South Carolina | Tennessee | Vanderbilt
SEC WEST PREVIEWS: Alabama | Arkansas | Auburn | LSU | Mississippi State | Ole Miss | Texas A&M
There is a lot of excitement in Starkville as Mississippi State returns a veteran group on both sides of the ball. The Bulldogs will remain dangerous on offense as Will Rogers will embark on his third year with the program. Rogers has had two springs to grow and Bulldog fans should expect this offense to be one of the top offenses in the SEC.
On the defensive side, Mississippi State will return one of the best front sixes that they have had in Zach Arnett’s tenure. The Bulldogs are led by veteran talent on the front two levels of the defense, defensive line and linebacker. There is reason for Mississippi State fans to expect big things from their veteran group, but they are tasked with one of the toughest schedules in the nation.
Back-to-back road trips to Lexington and Tuscaloosa will be challenging in the month of October. Mississippi State also has to face the defending national champions, Georgia. There is a positive for Mississippi State as that game will be in Starkville in front of the home crowd.
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THE TEAM: Mississippi State Bulldogs
THE MENTOR: Mike Leach (3rd year, 11-13 record)
THE 2021 RECORD (SEC RECORD): 7-6 (4-4)
THE AFTER LIFE: LOST Liberty Bowl (lost to Texas Tech 34-7)
THE FIVE STUDS (STATS): Will Rogers, QB (364.5 passing yards per game, 4,739 passing yards and 36 passing touchdowns); Jaden Walley, WR (55 receptions, 628 yards and six touchdowns); Emmanuel Forbes, DB (60 tackles, 5.0 tackles for loss, one sack and three interceptions); Jett Johnson, LB (87 tackles, two fumble recoveries, six tackles for loss, three pass breakups and one interceptions); Tyrus Wheat, LB (19 tackles, seven sacks, one forced fumble and one interception)
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THE GOOD: Mike Leach’s air raid offense is ready for a breakout season with junior quarterback Will Rogers at the helm. Rogers gets a majority of his offensive weapons with Jaden Walley, Rara Thomas, Austin Williams and Jamire Calvin surrounding the signal caller.
Mississippi State doesn’t run the ball much like the other teams in the SEC, but the running backs they have are effective. The leading rusher for the Bulldogs in 2021 was Dillon Johnson (485 yards and four touchdowns) and Jo’quavious Marks (416 yards and six touchdowns).
The Bulldogs have returning talent that will light up the scoreboard in the 2022 season. Mississippi State fans should know what they are expecting from the offense as the college football season nears. In 2021, the Bulldogs led the SEC in time of possession and the passing game was fourth in the nation in total yards.
Mississippi State has eight returning starters on the offensive and defensive side of the ball. The Bulldogs will be set up with a strong foundation under Mike Leach’s third year.
On the defensive side, Mississippi State returns a strong defensive front. The Bulldogs bring back its entire starting defensive line and have added a skilled pass rusher in Jordan Davis. Mississippi State is also strong at the linebacker position with the returns of Jett Johnson, Nathaniel Watson and Tyrus Wheat. The two front levels on the defense are stacked with talent and have depth.
The Bulldogs also tried to fix their special teams woes with adding Coastal Carolina transfer Massimo Biscardi. Biscardi made 46 of his 57 field goals including 18 out of 21 in his last two seasons.
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THE BAD: Mississippi State’s schedule is one of the tougher ones in the country. According to 247sports, Mississippi State’s 2022 slate is the toughest in the country. The months of October and November will be the defining moment of the Bulldogs’ 2022 season. The Bulldogs’ cross-divisional opponent this season is the defending national champions. If there is a positive to the game against Georgia, it will be at home in Starkville. Mississippi State will have to weather the storm as they run through their gauntlet that they will face.
Mississippi State did lose their star receiver in Makai Polk. Polk led the Bulldogs with a school-record 105 receptions and 1,046 receiving yards. The wide receivers on the roster will have to step up and fill the shoes that Polk left. Another big loss was left tackle, Charles Cross, who was a coveted prospect by many NFL teams.
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THE UGLY: There are not many holes on the defensive side for Mississippi State, except for the secondary having some unknowns. The Bulldog defense will have to figure out who will plug into the multiple openings in the defensive backfield. Mississippi State’s secondary loses out on Martin Emerson, who was looked as one of the best corners in the SEC. Another departure was safety Fred Peters.
The Bulldogs do have some options that can plug into those roles: Decamerion Richardson and Alabama transfer Marcus Banks. The secondary will be the biggest question mark for Mississippi State’s defense heading into the 2022 season.
The offensive line will also be a big question mark for Mississippi State heading into the new season. The Bulldogs will have to replace both tackles. If the line is able to remain steady and keep Rogers upright the offense will be among the SEC’s best.
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BIGGEST NON-CONF GAME OF THE YEAR (AND WHY): Mississippi State’s non-conference opponents feature Memphis, Arizona, Bowling Green and East Tennessee State. East Tennessee can be a sneaky FCS opponent. ETSU went 11-2 last season and ended up making the FCS playoffs before being knocked out by eventual national champion, North Dakota State.
The biggest non-conference game will be Mississippi State’s home opener against Memphis. The two teams faced off last year in Memphis where the Tigers edged out the Bulldogs, 31-29. Last year, Mississippi State was on the wrong end of a controversial call against Memphis. It is important for Mississippi State to get off to a hot start to start the season before their schedule gets ramped up in conference play.
BIGGEST CONF. GAME OF THE YEAR (AND WHY): Mississippi State’s October stretch features a four-game stretch of vs. Texas A&M, vs. Arkansas, @ Kentucky and @ Alabama. The Texas A&M game will be important for Mississippi State to start a daunting October stretch that will continue to be challenging in November.
Texas A&M had the No. 1 recruiting class and has high expectations coming into the season as they enter the 2022 season as a Top 10 team. Mississippi State was able to pull off the road upset in 2021 by knocking off the Aggies in College Station, 26-22. The Aggies will feature a talented team, but there are question marks at the quarterback position.
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DARKHORSE THREAT ON THE SKED (AND WHY): There are a couple of dark horses that can be identified on the Bulldogs’ schedule, but the main darkhorse is a road test against Kentucky. The Kentucky-Mississippi State is an annual rivalry game every year that can go either way.
Mississippi State was able to get a 31-17 win at home against the Wildcats. The Bulldogs have the Wildcats number in the previous season. The quarterback matchup between Will Rogers and Will Levis will be must-see television. Levis is one of the most talented quarterbacks in the country. Will Rogers will have something to say about that in this matchup between the Bulldogs and the Wildcats.
THE HAPPY HISTORY NUGGET: The Bulldogs won their first and only SEC championship in 1941. They captured a division title in 1998. Mississippi State has played in 25 bowl games, compiling a 14-11 record. they have played a bowl game in twelve consecutive seasons dating back to 2010.
WHICH TEAMS WILL THEY BEAT?: Memphis, Arizona, Bowling Green, Kentucky, Auburn, ETSU and Ole Miss
WHICH TEAMS WILL THEY LOSE TO?: LSU, Texas A&M, Arkansas, Alabama and Georgia
FINAL RECORD, POSTSEASON PREDICTION?: 7-5 in the regular season (Texas Bowl in Houston vs. TCU)
PRESEASON ALL-SEC PLAYERS:: Second-Team Defense–Emmanuel Forbes, CB (60 tackles, 5.0 tackles for loss, one sack, three interceptions, five pass breakups and one forced fumble)
RELATED MISSISSIPPI STATE BULLDOG STORIES:: Mike Leach, Mississippi State Agree to Extension
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