For the past six years, I have taken a poll of my colleagues on the Mississippi State beat to get their thoughts about the upcoming season. With so much uncertainity surrounding the Bulldogs and: how they will perform in Mike Leach’s second season, I thought it more important than ever to gauge the pulse of the guys and gals who will be covering the team this year. What I got was a pretty wide variety of opinions.
Predict MSU’s final regular season record: Six votes for 7-5 made that the most popular outcome. Only Theo DeRosa of the Commerical Dispatch has the Bulldogs under .500, and the most positive outlook comes from Crissy Froyd of Cowbell Corner, who has the Bulldogs heading to a 9-3 campaign.
Will Rogers to break MSU’s single season passing record: 13 opinions, and nearly a 50/50 split, going 7-6 for no. Rogers would need to average 316 yards per game to get there.
Will MSU have a 500 yard rusher this season: Believe it or not, Leach has had a 500 plus yard rusher 15 times in his coaching career, and he’s had two in a season twice. Both Jo’Quavious Marks and Dillon Johnson should see a lot of improvement in their sophomore seasons, and seven of the responses think at least one of them will crack that barrier.
Will MSU have a top 40 defense: State’s defense ranked 52nd a season ago, and the Bulldogs bring back a ton of experience along with a couple of impact transfers. Ten of the responses say Zach Arnett’s group improves on last year’s finish.
Most likely postseason All-SEC nominee: Mississippi State didn’t have a single preseason All-SEC nominee, but there are always players who emerge over the course of the year. Five votes went for Charles Cross, who has been mentioned as a potential first round pick in several mock drafts. Three went for Jaden Walley, who should be poised to put up outrageous numbers in the Air Raid offense. From the defensive side of the ball, Aaron Brule and Martin Emerson got two votes, with Emmnauel Forbes picking up one from Matt St. Jean of WTVA Sports.
Most likely upset loss for the Bulldogs: No surprise that this question would give a mixed bag of results, with Ole Miss and Memphis picking up three votes apiece to lead the way. Kentucky, Arkansas, LSU, Auburn, and NC State all picked up at least one vote, which shows how many dangerous games there are for the Bulldogs this season.
Most likely upset win for the Bulldogs: This one saw a bit more of a consensus, as five of us voted for LSU as the game State will could win as an underdog. Auburn picked up three votes, and two opinions went for the Egg Bowl, where despite favoring the Rebels today, both St. Jean and Chris Bolton of WCBI Sports think State could win the season finale. Just as before Kentucky, Arkansas, and NC State made this side of the list.
So what does it all mean? 12 out of 13 folks who cover the Bulldogs feel State will be back in a bowl game, and at least half of the beat thinks the Air Raid offense will be much improved in 2021. The same goes for Zach Arnett’s defense, who 2/3 of the votes say will be better than a season ago. If everything holds as its predicted here, 2021 should be an exciting season in Starkville.
Photo courtesy of Mississippi State athletics