Know Your Enemy: What LSU Football Faces in 2021 Version of Mississippi State

What year two of air raid offense in Starkville looks like under coach Mike Leach
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The topics of focus for LSU have been well covered this week through the mouths of coach Ed Orgeron and the players. But what the Tigers opponent, Mississippi State, will do this weekend remains a mystery. 

We reached out to Cowbell Corner publisher Crissy Froyd to get her thoughts on the game and some of the strengths this Bulldog team will try to exploit this weekend. 

1. Obviously the Air Raid offense is the identity of this Bulldogs team. In year two, how has this offense evolved under Mike Leach?

This is a team that is still extremely inconsistent at times and seems to really get going in spurts. Every game, we catch a glimpse (some glimpses longer than others) of just how electric this offense can be. The Bulldogs are well on their way, but it's going to be a steady process. The players they have this year are better and more bought in in comparison to what Leach started with last year. You have to think, last year, this team is transitioning from an RPO-based offense to the Air Raid. They couldn't be more different of systems, and those players were mostly inherited, not recruited by this staff.

2. In doing some research, the Bulldogs have rushed 25 times a game through the first few contests after hovering around 20 in 2020. Is there more of an effort to try and get the ground game going and who is a standout running back we should know about?

I think Dillon Johnson and Jo'quavious Marks are players who can both be incredibly effective both in the short passing game and as pure runners as well. I think the ground game is getting made use of a little bit more than last year, but regardless, one thing to watch for is how well this offense builds out all-around backs. These guys are asked to catch, run and do some blocking.

3. This offense has been handed over to Will Rogers and he seems to be making some good decisions with the football. How would you assess his play so far and what are some ways this offense could really hurt the LSU defense?

When this offense really gets going, it's lethal. Go watch the fourth-quarter comeback against LA Tech and the final minutes of that Memphis game. Two different outcomes, but man did they put together a rally and move it downfield quickly. Rogers has been up-and-down -- he and the offense have won the stat line in several instances but the stats and true performances themselves are different stories. Rogers was asked to step up as a true freshman last year in place of K.J. Costello and did better than a lot of us could have expected him to. There are times when he seems to lack pocket awareness and he can get into a bad habit of holding the ball too long. But as Leach has said, we talk about Rogers like he's a veteran and this was just his ninth start. There's lots of room for improvement, but patience is a virtue and this is something that's got to be given time.

4. I know defensively this team didn’t come in with high expectations. What are the strengths and weaknesses on that side of the ball?

Like the other sides of the ball, the defense struggled early on in the season. There have been some instances where they've allowed some explosive plays, but this unit has done a great job overall. The Bulldogs looked strong up front against Memphis, limited it to less than five yards per play, and outgaining them 468-246.

5. Prediction?

To me, these are both shaky teams still trying to find a sense of consistency. LSU also comes into this one a little banged up and the Bulldogs have the homefield advantage and slight edge. 37-31, MSU wins it.