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Opponent Breakdown: Mississippi State Offense

Mississippi State v Texas A&M Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

The Mississippi State Bulldogs had a big moment on their hands a couple of years ago when Dan Mullen left to be the head coach at Florida. They needed to find a guy that could win games while coaching in Starksville. Mullen was great at overcoming the odds and they needed someone that could do the same. Joe Moorehead was a strong choice as he had led a Penn State offense that killed everyone and had head coaching experience in his past. The results have been very mixed but Moorehead has done a good enough job to get his team to a bowl game this year even though they’ve had some issues in key positions.

The Bulldogs had to replace Nick Fitzgerald but they seemed to have the right guy in Keytaon Thompson. Thompson beat Louisville in their bowl matchup in 2017 but for whatever reason, Moorehead felt that he needed a grad transfer addition and he signed Tommy Stevens who played for him at PSU. Moorhead also signed a highly rated freshman in Garrett Shrader which rounded out a very solid quarterback room. Even with all of the talent and experience the Dogs had this year, the quarterback position has been the most volatile.

Thompson somehow ended up third on the depth chart this fall and entered the transfer portal for a short time. He decided to stick with MSU but hasn’t done anything this year outside of catching a pass in the Egg Bowl as a wide receiver. Tommy Stevens battled injuries this year and was also inconsistent when he played. That left Shrader to play as a true freshman and he has been a solid player considering his youth. Shrader will start the bowl game but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Stevens also play. Both are average passers with really good running skills.

The running back position is very strong with Kylin Hill leading the SEC in rushing as well as overall offensive touches. MSU works him into the passing game well but his strength is finding creases in the defense and using his speed at the second level. Hill is a complete back but he gets help from his line as well as the system. I would put him behind some of the backs Louisville has seen this year but not by much. Cam Akers and Travis Etienne are more talented players but Hill can definitely go off.

Hill is backed up by Nick Gibson and Lee Witherspoon and I don’t know if I’ve seen a group of running backs resemble each other as much as these guys do. They’re all about the same size and they use their stocky stature to get extra yards as well as seemingly sneaking through the line at times. There’s not a big drop off with these two guys but Richards is almost a clone of Hill. It’s his last game as a Bulldog, so I could see him looking to have a big day.

MSU has a strong group of receivers but none are consistently productive. They have great size outside with two receivers that are 6-4 or above while having Dedrick Thomas as the speedy slot guy. This offense doesn’t stretch the field well at all but they do have the size to at least try to draw pass interference or win jump balls. They only have 11 completions on the year for 30 or more yards and only three completions for 40 or more yards. Some of that is due to the quarterback play but there isn’t a ton of speed or elusiveness after the catch.

The MSU offensive line has done a solid job protecting the quarterback but they have given up some sacks due to guys holding onto the ball too long or trying to make plays. The line is a veteran group but they don’t have any guys that really standout like they did in the last bowl game. Louisville’s defensive front was embarrassed in their last game, so the chance to have a bounce back game should push them to take advantage of that looked fairly average at times this year.