Mississippi State made some progress with a jump from four to seven wins a season ago.
Expect to see footballs flying through the air once again thanks to the return of Will Rogers, who was third in the country with 4,739 passing yards. Leading receiver Makai Polk is trying to earn a job in the NFL and will certainly be missed. The Bulldogs have experienced returnees at every position on offense and defense, so the hope is that will translate into more wins in the challenging SEC West Division.
Mississippi State (+12500) is currently 12th in the odds to win the SEC title according to the college football picks. The Bulldogs (+6600) are tied for sixth with Auburn in the odds to win the SEC West Division title.
Mississippi State (+15000) is tied for 24th in the odds to win the national championship according to the sportsbook.
Mississippi State Bulldogs
- 2021 record: 7-6
- 2021 conference record: 4-4
- Head coach: Mike Leach
- Odds to win conference title: +12500
Mississippi State had at least two players selected in the first two days of the NFL Draft for the third time in the last four years.
Offensive tackle Charles Cross was a first-round pick. Kameron Jones, LaQuinston Sharp (a candidate for the Rimington Trophy) and Cole Smith are all back on the line. The Bulldogs added Steven Losoya from Middle Tennessee State.
𝐖𝐀𝐓𝐂𝐇 𝐋𝐈𝐒𝐓 𝐒𝐙𝐍 𝐂𝐎𝐍𝐓𝐈𝐍𝐔𝐄𝐒
Entering his sixth season of college football, LaQuinston Sharp is one of just 40 FBS centers named to the @RimingtonTrophy Preseason Watch List! #HailState🐶 pic.twitter.com/WZK46PGpH7
— Mississippi State Football (@HailStateFB) July 22, 2022
Physical cornerback Martin Emerson went in the third round. He went from leading the SEC in pass breakups in 2020 to not being tested quite as often in 2021.
That is the bad news. Now for the other side of the ledger.
Will Rogers is set for his third season as the starting quarterback at Mississippi State. He completed 74 percent of his passes for 4,739 yards with 36 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He had 400-yard games against Memphis, Texas A&M, Arkansas and Auburn.
Running backs Dillon Johnson and Jo’quavious Marks return after combining for 901 rushing yards, 10 touchdown runs and 148 receptions.
Leading receiver Makai Polk (105 receptions) is gone. However, Jaden Walley (55 catches, 628 yards) and Austin Williams (52 catches, 617 yards) both return. Rara Thomas is another receiver to keep an eye on.
Receiver Malik Heath transferred to rival Ole Miss while Theodore Knox, Quinton Torbor and Jacobi Moore have transferred, as well so that will impact the depth at that position. Receivers Justin Robinson and Jordan Mosley come in from Georgia and Northwestern.
Mississippi State returns 11 of its top 14 tacklers.
Leading tackler Jeff Johnson and Nate Watson lead the list of returnees after they had 87 and 84 tackles a season ago. Watson added five sacks. Add in Tyrus Wheat (team high six sacks) and the Bulldogs have the makings of a solid group of linebackers, even with Aaron Brule transferring to Michigan State.
Emmanuel Forbes, Jalen Green, Collin Duncan and Shawn Preston are all back in the secondary. The secondary should be aided by the arrival of former West Virginia cornerback Jackie Matthews (43 tackles, 6½ tackles for loss a season ago), as well as Jordan Morant (Michigan), Hunter Washington (Florida State) and Marcus Banks (Alabama), who all transferred in.
The line will feature 310-pound Cameron Young, 265-pound defensive end Randy Charlton (4 sacks), 300-pound Nathan Pickering (four sacks) and 310-pound Jaden Crumedy.
Mississippi State was 12th in the SEC in punting and last in field goal success rate a season ago. The Bulldogs brought in George Georgopoulos (44.8 yards on 64 punts last season) and kicker Massimo Biscardi (46 career field goals) from Coastal Carolina to address those positions.
Mississippi State Outlook
Mississippi State is coming off a 7-6 season that had the potential to be so much better if not for three losses by three points or less. A highlight was an early win over a ranked North Carolina State team. Other than a 40-point defeat to Alabama and a bowl loss to Texas Tech, the Bulldogs were in every game. Mississippi State is being undervalued a bit heading into the season so keep an eye on this team.
Losing more than 20 transfers is not a recipe for success. If there is a silver lining it is that only linebacker Aaron Brule, defensive end Aaron Odum and receiver Malik Heath had regular roles a season ago.
The odds are at -135 for Mississippi State to top the expected regular-season win total of 6½ according to the college football predictions.
Something to consider for those who bet online: There was a stretch of six games during the 2021 season when the final score in Mississippi State games was off from the total by an average of just 1.9 points.
Opening SEC play against LSU, Texas A&M and Arkansas could be rather challenging for the Bulldogs. Mississippi State is currently favored by 16½ points in the season opener against Memphis.
2022 Mississippi State Schedule
- Sept. 3 vs Memphis
- Sept. 10 at Arizona
- Sept. 17 at Louisiana State
- Sept. 24 vs Bowling Green
- Oct. 1 vs Texas A&M
- Oct. 8 vs Arkansas
- Oct. 15 at Kentucky
- Oct. 22 at Alabama
- Nov. 5 vs Auburn
- Nov. 12 vs Georgia
- Nov. 19 vs East Tennessee
- Nov. 24 at Ole Miss