#41 Mississippi State Football 2020 Preview

Mississippi State Bulldogs
Overall Rank: #41
#9 SEC
 Mississippi State Logo
Business is about to pick up in Starkville heading into the 2020 season as the Pirate of the Palouse, Mike Leach, has made the move to Mississippi State. Leach resurrected the Washington State program into a highly competitive one during his time in Pullman thanks to his Air Raid offense that produced a ton of points and electrifying games for the most part. It will be interesting to see how Leach adjusts to the SEC this time around as it is the ultimate gauntlet of a conference on an annual basis.
2019 Record: 6-7, 3-5
2019 Bowl: Music City Bowl vs. Louisville (L 28-38)
Coach: Mike Leach (First year at Mississippi State, 139-90 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Mike Leach
Defensive Coordinator: Zach Arnett
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Kylin Hill, RB, 1,350 yards
Passing: Garrett Shrader, QB, 1,155 yards
Receiving: Osirus Mitchell, WR, 430 yards
Tackles: Erroll Thompson, LB, 84
Sacks: Kobe Jones, DE, 4
Interceptions: Marcus Murphy, S, 2
Other Key Returnees: DL Marquiss Spencer, K Scott Goodman, P Tucker Day, WR Javonta Payton
Key Losses: CB Cameron Dantzler, LB Willie Gay Jr., OL Tyre Phillips, OL Darryl Williams, S Brian Cole II, DE Chauncey Rivers, WR Steven Guidry, QB Tommy Stevens, LB Leo Lewis, WR Deddrick Thomas, S Jaquarius Landrews, DL Fabien Lovett
There won’t be any mystery with what’s coming from Coach Leach on offense in 2020. The Bulldogs are going to throw the ball 50-60 times a game. Graduate transfer K. J. Costello comes over from Stanford at quarterback and should end up as the starter. In addition, Costello should be able to use this one season in Starkville as an opportunity to prove to NFL scouts that he can operate any type of offensive scheme successfully. Kylin Hill made the decision to return at running back instead of entering the 2020 NFL Draft: Hill had a very productive 2019 season as he rushed for 1,350 yards and 10 touchdowns. It will be interesting to see how Leach uses Hill as he is going to have to be able to show at least a little bit of a running game threat. Osirus Mitchell should see his numbers take off in this offense as he caught 30 passes for 430 yards and a couple of touchdowns in 2019. Javonta Payton is another guy that should grow in this new offensive scheme as you can expect the Bulldogs to throw the ball well over 600 times in 2020.
This will be a fascinating storyline to watch as this should be the best opportunity for Coach Leach to develop a strong defensive unit. The staff will have access to a higher caliber of defensive player that wasn’t always available for Leach to legitimately recruit at Texas Tech and Washington State.  Stopping the run will be a crucial point of emphasis as the Bulldogs finished 10th in the SEC last season, allowing opponents to rush for 152.4 yards per game. Getting pressure on the quarterback will be another key to success for Mississippi State. The SEC is the ultimate line of scrimmage conference so it will be up to Erroll Thompson and company to play fast, physical and cause plenty of havoc for 60 minutes.
The Bottom Line:
The schedule is an interesting one as Mississippi State should beat New Mexico in week one before heading over to Raleigh to take on North Carolina State. If the Bulldogs can survive what will be a fired-up Carter Finley Stadium in Raleigh as Wolfpack fans are known to create a loud environment for big games. You can expect Mississippi State to have a great chance to be 4-0 heading into October. The month of October will be a gauntlet as the Bulldogs will take on Texas A&M, Alabama, LSU, and Auburn. Things get a little easier in November as they play Missouri, Kentucky, and Alabama A&M before concluding the 2020 regular season against Ole Miss in Oxford. It will be in Coach Leach’s best interest to have the Bulldogs ready to play at a high level in the Egg Bowl as the fans will absolutely not tolerate a 1-7 record against the Rebels like he had in the Apple Cup against Washington. Look for Mississippi State to grind out about six to seven wins and get back to another bowl game in 2020.
Projected Bowl: Music City Bowl
2019 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 220.6 (21st in nation, 3rd in conference)
Passing Offense: 179.5 (109, 12)
Total Offense: 400.1 (70, 7)
Scoring Offense: 27.6 (74, 7)
Rushing Defense: 152.4 (59, 10)
Pass Defense: 246.8 (97, 13)
Total Defense: 399.2 (73, 11)
Scoring Defense: 28.8 (74, 12)
Turnover Margin: 0.08 (57,9)
Sacks: 2.00 (72, 10)
Sacks Allowed: 2.38 (93, 13)
Madness 2020 NFL Draft Rankings:
#73 K.J. Costello