Our predictions: Game-by-game picks for Mississippi State football schedule in 2021
That extra time to prepare could go a long way. But the Bulldogs’ schedule doesn’t get much easier compared to last season’s conference-only slate, even with the addition of four nonconference games. NC State is receiving votes in the USA TODAY Sports AFCA Coaches Poll and Memphis is coming off an 8-3 season, difficult lead-ins to an even more difficult conference schedule.
Here are the Clarion Ledger’s game-by-game predictions for how Mississippi State’s season could unfold.
DEPTH CHART PROJECTION:How Mike Leach's team could line up come the season opener
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Sept 4: vs. Louisiana Tech
Last season: Did not play. Louisiana Tech went 5-5.
The buzz: Mississippi State was thrown in the fire to open last season, toppling LSU behind K.J. Costello’s 623 yards. The Bulldogs might not need that level of offensive fireworks this time to beat Louisiana Tech, particularly if the defense continues playing at the level it did last year.
The pick: Mississippi State wins, 38-17.
Sept. 11: vs. NC State
Last season: Did not play. NC State went 8-4.
The buzz: The Wolfpack comes off a strong season, and quarterback Devin Leary is healthy after suffering a broken leg. NC State poses a considerable challenge for Mississippi State — and it could be too much of one early on.
The pick: N.C. State wins, 35-21.
Sept. 18: at Memphis
Last season: Did not play. Memphis went 8-3.
The buzz: The Tigers are replacing three-year starting quarterback Brady White, who threw 31 touchdowns last season. They have options, but there could be a feeling-out period before Memphis hits a stride again with a new passer. For Mississippi State, this contest has particular significance, preceding a stretch of three games against SEC elite.
The pick: Mississippi State wins, 42-38.
Sept. 25: vs. No. 13 LSU
Last season: Mississippi State won, 44-34. LSU went 5-5.
The buzz: Mike Leach made a splash in his first game leading the Bulldogs last season, with Costello setting an SEC single-game passing record. Lightning isn’t likely to strike twice here, and the Tigers shouldn’t have much trouble when they visit Starkville — setting up a dismal losing streak.
The pick: LSU wins, 35-14.
Oct. 2: at No. 6 Texas A&M
Last season: Texas A&M won, 28-14. The Aggies went 9-1.
The buzz: Mississippi State’s defense — even after the departures of linebacker Erroll Thompson and two key defensive linemen — should be solid once again. But against Texas A&M’s deep running back group, the Aggies could run by the Bulldogs and run up the score.
The pick: Texas A&M wins, 41-16.
Oct. 16: vs. No. 1 Alabama
Last season: Alabama won, 41-0. The Crimson Tide went 13-0.
The buzz: Don’t pick against coach Nick Saban or Alabama. The cowbells will be clanging loudly for this one, but Mississippi State will struggle to keep up against the Crimson Tide — and struggle to score.
The pick: Alabama wins, 48-10.
Oct. 23: at Vanderbilt
Last season: Mississippi State won, 24-17. Vanderbilt went 0-9.
The buzz: The Bulldogs get a much-needed reprieve after a three-game stretch against some of the SEC’s powerhouse programs. Vanderbilt made things interesting against Mississippi State last season, but Leach’s team pulled that game off and should do the same this year.
The pick: Mississippi State wins, 30-20.
Oct. 30: vs. Kentucky
Last season: Kentucky won, 24-2. The Wildcats went 5-6.
The buzz: The Wildcats are receiving plenty of hype, with Penn State transfer quarterback Will Levis predicted to lead a high-powered offense. After Kentucky picked off six passes against Mississippi State in a dismal showing, though, there should be a better performance against the drop-eight tactics the Wildcats employed.
The pick: Kentucky wins, 23-17.
Nov. 6: at Arkansas
Last season: Arkansas won, 21-14. The Razorbacks went 3-7.
The buzz: Mississippi State laid an egg last season against Arkansas, a harsh return to reality after upsetting LSU in the first game. Leach and Co. should get revenge when they visit Fayetteville.
The pick: Mississippi State wins, 24-14.
Nov. 13: at Auburn
Last season: Auburn won, 24-10. The Tigers went 6-5.
The buzz: Mississippi State’s contest with Auburn was postponed from earlier in the year because of COVID-19 protocols , and the Bulldogs were still severely depleted once the Tigers came to Starkville in December. Assuming Mississippi State stays healthy, this could be a close game, tipping in the home team’s favor.
The pick: Auburn wins, 31-24.
Nov. 20: vs. Tennessee State
Last season: Did not play. Tennessee State went 2-5.
The buzz: Eyes might start looking one week ahead toward the Egg Bowl, but Mississippi State won’t have any trouble against an FCS foe coached by four-time Pro Bowler Eddie George in his first season. There could be plenty of rotation when this game gets out of reach to avoid key injuries.
The pick: Mississippi State wins, 49-10.
Nov. 25: vs. No. 25 Ole Miss
Last season: Ole Miss won, 31-24. The Rebels went 5-5.
The buzz: Davis Wade Stadium will be rocking for the Egg Bowl on Thanksgiving. And Mississippi State will recover from a treacherous start to the SEC schedule to put together an impressive end, capped with a tight victory over its in-state rival.
The pick: Mississippi State wins, 35-28.