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Mike Leach isn’t given enough credit for how good a coach he is. Most people look at him as a novelty act because of all the crazy things he says. They overlook the fact that in 19 years of head coaching he has a record of 143-97. This was achieved at Texas Tech and Washington State, two schools not associated with winning much. Now, he is in Starkville, Mississippi and it will be interesting to see if he can bring the same level of excitement here as he did in his two previous stops. I can promise you this. It will be entertaining.
Offense: It is Year 2 of Leach’s Air raid offense and there normally is a significant improvement. QB Will Rogers started the last six games of 2020 and guided the Bulldogs to a 3-3 record. There are two transfers that were brought in to challenge him. Jo’quavious Marks and Dillon Johnson return at running back and that position is in good shape. WR Jaden Walley put up four straight 100-plus yard receiving games late in the season. He will be joined by Austin Williams,a trusted third down target. The Bulldogs return 4 starters on the offensive line with a combined 26 starts between them.
Defense: The Mississippi State defense was good last year and return seven starters. Linebackers Nathaniel Watson and Aaron Brule are back and both played most of the snaps in 2020. The secondary is led by two potential stars in, Martin Emerson and Emmanuel Forbes. Forbes started a as a freshman and had five interceptions returning three of them for touchdowns. The Bulldogs always have good defensive lineman and UCF transfer Randy Charlton and returning starter Jaden Crumedy will try and carry on that tradition.
9/4 Louisiana Tech
9/11 NC State
9/18 at Memphis
11/20 Tennessee State
This is a pretty challenging schedule for a rebuilding team. Louisiana Tech has been pretty good the last few years and is capable of pulling off an upset in Game 1. Then coming to Starkville, will be the Wolfpack from NC State and they are in the Top-5 in the ACC. A road game at Memphis against a good Tiger team follows that. The late season game against Tennessee State is the lone gimme. They could easily go 1-3 and 2-2 might be pretty good.
10/2 at Texas A&M
10/23 at Vanderbilt
11/6 at Arkansas
11/13 at Auburn
11/27 Ole Miss
Talk about a tough opening three-game stretch. Home games against LSU and Alabama and in between a trek to College Station and the Aggies. They have a road game at Vanderbilt that they really need to win and the game at Arkansas is a maybe. The other road game is at Auburn and that is probably a loss. The home game against Kentucky is a possibility as is the finale in the Egg Bowl against Ole Miss.
Summary: Leach will have them playing hard and they will show improvement but they aren’t ready to move up much this year. The schedule is tough and there are not many wins there. But, doubting this coaching staff is dangerous and don’t be surprised if they fool the experts.
Predicted Finish: 7th Place in the SEC West
Overall Record: 4-8
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