7 Point Preview: Mississippi State vs. Texas Tech

A 7 point preview.

1. Game Info

Texas Tech Red Raiders (6-6)
Mississippi State Bulldogs (7-5)
December 28th @ 5:45 p.m.
Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium – Memphis, Tennessee
Mississippi State -9.5
Cloudy, 72-63.

2. Overview

RANKINGS Texas Tech Mississippi State
ESPN FPI 60 23
FEI Rank: 70 33
Sharp FB Beta-Rank 64 22

Mississippi State is significantly better than Texas Tech. At least statistically I think they are better. They started the year with two wins against Louisiana Tech (which was by 1 point) and then beat what ended up being a good NC State team by 2 touchdowns. Then 2 losses to Memphis and LSU, the loss to the Tigers was by 2 points and LSU was 3 points, seemed to put them on the wrong side of getting back on track. They pulled off an upset win at TAMU by 4, was drilled by Alabama (as were most opponents) and then rattled off 2 wins against Vanderbilt by 39 and Kentucky by 2 touchdowns again. A 3-point loss to Arkansas and then a 9-point win at Auburn with their FCS win at the end of the year against Tennessee State. What looked like a good match-up ended up being a 10-point loss to Ole Miss.

As to the elephant in the room? I’m past the Leach versus Texas Tech thing. I’ve lacked the energy to care for the better part of 7 or 8 years.

3. Texas Tech Offense vs. Mississippi State Defense

Stats to Consider

Texas Tech Offense Mississippi State Defense
FEI 34 23
Sharp FB 29 38
Play Efficiency 15 34
Drive Efficiency 61 68
Negative Drives 30 48
Explosive Drives 24 22
Rush Efficiency 55 32
Pass Efficiency 22 55

Three Mississippi State Players You Should Know

1. LB Jett Johnson (6-2/235 | JR): Johnson is your leading tackler with 85 for MSU, add in 6 tackles for a loss, 1 interception, and 1 forced fumble.

2. CB Emmanuel Forbes (6-1/180 | SO): Forbes had 3 picks on the year, add in 53 tackles, 4.5 tackles for a loss, 1 sack, 5 passes broken up, and 1 forced fumble. That’s putting yourself out there defensively.

3. DE Randy Charlton (6-3/265 | JR) & DT Jaden Crumedy (6-3/310 | JR): Charlton has only 35 tackles, but he’s got 5 tackles for a loss, 4 sacks, 7 quarterback hurries, and a forced fumble. Crumedy has 20 tackles, just 2 tackles for a loss and 1 sack, but also has 7 quarterback hurries and a forced fumble.

Three Things to Know About The Mississippi State Defense

1. The defensive coordinator is Zach Arnett, who cut his teeth coaching at San Diego State and studying under Rocky Long. Arnett played football at New Mexico (it would not surprise me that he played against Texas Tech).

2. Mississippi State runs an odd-man front, a 3-3-5 alignment, with Cameron Young (6-3/310) being the anchor in the middle, Tyrus Wheat (6-2/265) and Nathaniel Watson (6-2/24) at the other two linebacker spots, Martin Emerson (6-2/200) at the other cornerback and the safety spots being Collin Duncan (6-0/205), Jalen Green (6-1/200), and Fred Peters (5-10/205).

3. Mississippi State has 6 defensive coaches, which seems like a lot. Tony Hughes coaches cornerbacks, Arnett coaches linebackers, Matt Brock coaches outside linebackers, Darcel McBath coaches cornerbacks, Jeff Phelps coaches defensive line and Jason Washington coaches safeties.

4. Texas Tech Defense vs. Mississippi State Offense

Stats to Consider

Texas Tech Defense Mississippi State Offense
FEI 109 17
Sharp FB 103 12
Play Efficiency 76 56
Drive Efficiency 113 5
Negative Drives 111 9
Explosive Drives 53 40
Rush Efficiency 89 127
Pass Efficiency 107 3

Three Mississippi State Players You Should Know

1. QB Will Rogers (6-2/210 | SO): Rogers completed 75% of his passes, for 371 yards a game, 35 touchdowns, 8 interceptions. Rogers averages about 53 attempts a game and like almost all of Leach’s quarterbacks, Rogers is not a running threat really at all, has a net loss on the year, the amount is unimportant, just know he’s probably not going to burn you on the ground.

2. WR Makai Polk (6-3/200 | SO): Polk has 98 receptions for 989 yards a game, averaging 10 yards a catch, 9 touchdowns, and 82 yards receiving a game.

3. RB Jo’Quavious Marks (5-10/205 | SO): Marks is dual-threat from the standpoint that he’s actually caught more yards receiving than running the ball. Marks has 101 rushing attempts, 397 rushing yards, averaging nearly 4 yards a carry, 6 touchdowns, over 8 carries a game and average 33 yards a game. Catching the ball, Marks has 79 receptions, 464 receiving yards, 3 touchdowns, about 6 yards a catch, over 6 receptions per game and nearly 39 receiving yards a game.

Three Things to Know About The Mississippi State Offense

1. One of the most important players, left tackle Charles Cross (6-5/310), perhaps the best left tackle in the nation and possibly expected to go in the first round, will sit out this game and prepare for the NFL Draft. Nick Jones (6-3/300) is the back-up and can’t say I know a ton about him.

2. If there are 6 defensive coaches that means there are just 3 assistant offensive coaches. Mason Miller is the offensive line coach, Steve Spurrier, Jr. is the outside receivers coach, and Eric Mele is the running backs coach. My guess is that Leach coaches quarterbacks and there is no coach for inside receivers (I’m sure they are coached by someone, maybe an offensive grad assistant).

3. The receivers, other than the H-receiver, are quite big. Malik Heath (6-3/220) is at X-receiver, Austin Williams (6-3/200) is at the Y-receiver, Makai Polk (6-3/200) is at the Z-receiver with Jamire Calvin at the H-receiver (5-10/160).

5. Special Teams

Three Things to Know About The Mississippi State Offense

1. I think that Leach has had a tough go at place kicker. Freshman kicker Nolan McCord is just 9 of 16, while senior Brandon Ruiz is just 5 of 9. Ruiz handles kickoff duties.

2. The punter position has also been split a bit, Archer Trafford has 21 punts and averages about 42 yards a punt, while Tucker Day has 17 punts and averages about 40 yards a punt.

3. Kickoffs are handled by Lideatrick Griffin and Jo’quavious Marks, both are around 5-10 and Griffin averages 34 yards a return (which includes a touchdown) while Marks averages 22 yards a return.

6. Lagniappe

lagniappe | something given as a bonus or extra gift.

  • Texas Tech will miss Erik Ezukanma, but if given the choice between missing my left tackle or a starting receiver, I’m choosing starting receiver each and every time. I loved watching Ezukanma play. He played so danged hard and he played so tough. I’ll definitely miss watching him in the red and black and cannot imagine what he would have done in a Zach Kittley offense.
  • I think there will be plenty of options to fill Ezukanma’s shoes, Loic Fouonji, Trey Cleveland and you might even see J.J. Sparkman or Jerand Bradley get a few more snaps.
  • Texas Tech is 19th in yards per play at 6.52 while Mississippi State is 54th at 5.98. About half a yard difference isn’t necessarily significant as MSU’s offense is still very efficient and very good, but it is clear that Cumbie’s offense was always one that was predicated on getting the ball down the field. For reference purposes, Western Kentucky was 3rd in the nation at 7.19 yards per play.
  • On the other side of the field, the Bulldogs are 22nd in the nation in allowing only 5.41 yards per play. This is Texas Tech’s biggest struggles, 91st in the nation allowing 5.97 yards a game. Again, half a yard of difference, but I think this favors MSU significantly.

7. Prediction

I like Mississippi State here straight up, but I’ll take those points. I think the SEC does a fantastic job of stacking bowl games that are winnable so that we get lots of S-E-C chants as normally fans cheering for teams cheer for a dumb conference.


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