Know Your Enemy: Georgia vs. Mississippi State

Kyle Funderburk

How much can one offense change in a year? Take a good look at Georgia football's opponent for this week: Mississippi State.

For the entire 2010 decade, Mississippi State was all about the zone-read offense. Last season, running back Kylin Hill rushed for over 1,300 yards. Quarterbacks Tommy Stevens and Garrett Shrader combined for over 2,300 passing yards and nearly 1,000 rushing yards.

Following a 6-7 campaign, Mississippi State needed to make a change and replaced former head coach Joe Moorhead with Washington State head coach Mike Leach. Talk about change. 

Leach is known as an innovator of the spread, air-raid offense. His tenure at Texas Tech in the 2000s radically changed college football in the decade, culminating with the Red Raiders being ranked as high as No. 2 in the nation late in the 2008 season. With how many teams run air raid-like offenses in 2020, it's safe to say that Leach's offensive style hasn't aged a day.

Leach's style resonates in Mississippi State's stat book. The Bulldogs attempted 315 passes in 13 games last season. Six games into the 2020 season, the Bulldogs have already thrown 323 passes. Quarterbacks K.J. Costello and Will Rogers are non-existent in the running game.



But even Leach wouldn't have brought such radical changes to Mississippi State if he didn't need to. Hill opted out of the 2020 season after three games, leaving the Bulldogs without a leading running back. True freshman Jo'quavious Marks is the team's leading rusher with only 131 yards.

The lack of a quality running game puts the entire offense on the shoulders of the quarterback position, which has had its share of problems. Costello started the first five games, but he's currently out with a head injury. Rogers is currently listed as the starter, though he had already played a lot before Costello's injury.

The two haven't had any issues completing passes. Costello has a 64.7 completion percentage and Rogers is completing 71.6 percent of his passes. That's the only meaningful stat for Mississippi State's passing game. The duo have eight touchdowns and an alarming 14 interceptions, and are averaging less than seven yards per pass attempt.

Defensively, Mississippi State is one of the more underrated teams in the SEC. The Bulldogs have 14 sacks, tied for fourth-most in the conference. They also have six interceptions and six fumble recoveries. Mississippi State's defense knows how to create havoc, but it's more than just a big-play defense.

The Bulldogs allow just 359.8 yards per game, third-best in the SEC. Their 232.7 passing yards allowed and 127.2 rushing yards allowed are second and third in the SEC respectively. Points per game is where Mississippi State starts to fall off as opponents are hanging an average of 27.5 points on the Bulldogs.

The leader of the defense is defensive end Marquiss Spencer. He has 26 tackles with seven resulting in a loss. He's second on the team with 2.5 sacks. Linebacker Erroll Thompson is the best tackler of the team, accounting for 57 stops this season, which is seventh-best in the SEC. 

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