It's called the Air Raid. And that's not just a fancy catchphrase.
New Mississippi State head coach Mike Leach has long had the reputation for being pass-happy when it comes to his style of offense. Ever since Leach was hired back in January, that point has been driven home in MSU circles with countless articles and podcasts.
There may be one stat though that drives that point home better than any other. Let's take a quick look at that stat and how it illustrates that the Leach-era Bulldogs will be unlike absolutely anything Mississippi State has done before. The stat in question? Passing yards per game.
First off, let's take a look at the 10 best passing seasons in Mississippi State history, ranked by passing yards per game:
- 316.4 ypg (2015)
- 280.7 ypg (2014)
- 244.5 ypg (2013)
- 239.7 ypg (1978)
- 237.8 ypg (2012)
- 221.2 ypg (1999)
- 220.2 ypg (1985)
- 217.6 ypg (2002)
- 214.9 ypg (1969)
- 214.9 ypg (2001)
As you see, there's only one season in MSU history in which the Bulldogs cracked the 300-average-passing-yards-per-game mark. And that season was one in which is seemed then-head-coach Dan Mullen retooled the State offense a bit to showcase quarterback Dak Prescott's passing ability. Even then though, the very best passing season in Mississippi State history pales in comparison to anything Mike Leach has done.
Leach of course spent 10 years as the head coach at Texas Tech (2000-2009), then spent the last eight seasons (2012-2019) at Washington State. Here are the 18 seasons of Leach's head coaching career, ranked in order of his team's passing yards per game:
- 477.7 ypg (2014 Washington State)
- 475.3 ypg (2003 Texas Tech)
- 470.3 ypg (2007 Texas Tech)
- 437.2 ypg (2019 Washington State)
- 433.7 ypg (2009 Texas Tech)
- 413.2 ypg (2008 Texas Tech)
- 399.7 ypg (2004 Texas Tech)
- 389.2 ypg (2015 Washington State)
- 388.9 ypg (2002 Texas Tech)
- 388.8 ypg (2005 Texas Tech)
- 373.5 ypg (2018 Washington State)
- 369.5 ypg (2006 Texas Tech)
- 368 ypg (2013 Washington State)
- 366.8 ypg (2017 Washington State)
- 362.5 ypg (2016 Washington State)
- 337.3 ypg (2001 Texas Tech)
- 330.4 ypg (2012 Washington State)
- 295.7 ypg (2000 Texas Tech)
All 18 of those seasons ranked inside the Top 11 nationally in passing yards per game. All but two ranked inside the Top 5 nationally. Both of those years outside the Top 5 (2000 & 2012) were in Leach's first seasons at those respective schools. So perhaps that bears monitoring as he gets started in Starkville. All told though, in 10 of Leach's 18 seasons, his teams have led the country in passing yards per game.
Now here's the kicker. You might've been able to see this already, but let's now transplant Mike Leach's passing-yards-per game averages into the Mississippi State record book and see what such a thing would look like:
- 477.7 ypg (2014 Leach)
- 475.3 ypg (2003 Leach)
- 470.3 ypg (2007 Leach)
- 437.2 ypg (2019 Leach)
- 433.7 ypg (2009 Leach)
- 413.2 ypg (2008 Leach)
- 399.7 ypg (2004 Leach)
- 389.2 ypg (2015 Leach)
- 388.9 ypg (2002 Leach)
- 388.8 ypg (2005 Leach)
- 373.5 ypg (2018 Leach)
- 369.5 ypg (2006 Leach)
- 368 ypg (2013 Leach)
- 366.8 ypg (2017 Leach)
- 362.5 ypg (2016 Leach)
- 337.3 ypg (2001 Leach)
- 330.4 ypg (2012 Leach)
- 316.4 ypg (2015 Mississippi State)********
- 295.7 ypg (2000 Leach)
That's right. If you put Mike Leach's team's passing-yards-per-game averages over his entire 18-year head coaching career into Mississippi State's record book, he'd hold all of the top 17 spots and 18 of the top 19.
In fact, you could add 100 yards per game to Mississippi State's best-ever passing season and Leach would still hold all top 5 spots in the MSU record book.
So yeah. Not breaking news here when you're dealing with Leach, but he's gonna throw the football, throw the football and then throw the football some more. If that doesn't work, well, he's gonna throw it again. And if his history holds true, he's going to put up numbers that have long seemed unimaginable at Mississippi State.