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On the Up: Mississippi State Making Notable Strides Under Mike Leach Despite Latest Loss

Mike Leach has a track record for turning teams with the Air Raid, and has Mississippi State on the right path.

Mississippi State football has had its ups and downs this season, most recently falling 49-9 to Alabama on Saturday, but it's hard to ignore some of this team's major accomplishments under head coach Mike Leach.

Through the first seven weeks of the college football season, MSU and No. 1-ranked Georgia are the only two teams in the nation with two wins against opponents currently ranked in the AP Top 25 (Texas A&M and NC State). 

Leach has turned around teams and put them on the map in both of his head coaching jobs before MSU. Texas Tech was a team that garnered very little attention before Leach's arrival in 2000, finished ranked five times under him and hasn't finished ranked since.

Washington State, where Leach coached from 2012 to 2019, the team finished ranked once and appeared in six bowl games. In the eight seasons before, the team had no bowl appearances and never made it into the rankings.

As MSU sits at 3-3, the Bulldogs are still one of the youngest teams in the conference, just as they were last year with 26 first-time starters last season. Despite this, the Bulldogs seem well on their way to being a team that clicks on a consistent basis. 

That showed in the 26-22 road win over Texas A&M, which was ranked No. 15 at the time. Quarterback Will Rogers passed for 408 yards with three touchdowns in the victory, seeming to turn the corner as a player.

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Between this year's win over Texas A&M, last year's win at then No. 6-ranked LSU (9/26/2020) and then-No. 22-ranked Tulsa (12/31/2020), Leach has already defeated three AP-ranked opponents either on the road or at neutral sites.

Those three ranked wins are the most of any MSU head coach in his first 16 games and are tied for second by a Bulldogs head coach outside of Starkville in program history.

He's also tied for fifth in the nation since 2020 in wins over AP Top 15 opponents with two victories and has defeated an AP Top 5 team five times since 2001 -- the fourth-most among active FBS coaches during that span.

It's no secret that MSU's passing game has been humming, as Rogers leads the Southeastern Conference in passing yards with 2,162 yards on the season. Overall, the Bulldogs' offense has the No. 14 passing grade in the FBS (83.8) according to Pro Football Focus.

MSU is also second in the SEC, tied for 13th in the nation with 80 passes of 10 yards or more this season -- 23 of which have traveled for at least 20 yards.

It will be interesting to see how the team continues to build upon these numbers as it continues in its second year of the Air Raid with a 2-5 Vanderbilt team up next on the schedule on Oct. 23.