Previewing ALabama Football regular season games: Mississippi State

Mandatory Credit: Gary Cosby Jr/The Tuscaloosa News via USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Gary Cosby Jr/The Tuscaloosa News via USA TODAY Sports /

There are two big questions about the Alabama Football vs. Mississippi State game in Starkville on Oct. 16. Neither has anything to do with the adversity of playing in Starkville with the annoying and sometimes disruptive cowbells.

One question is will Alabama Football be flat following a big road trip to College Station the week before. The other, more intriguing question is does Mike Leach’s version of the Air Raid translate to success in the SEC.

The Pirate cemented his reputation as an offensive genius against Big 12 and Pac 12 defenses. There are many good defenders in both those conferences, but with some exceptions, fewer at the same level and in the same numbers as SEC defenders.

Last fall, when State opened with an upset of LSU, the immediate response was Leach’s team could handle SEC defenses. The 2020 season did not play out that way. In seven SEC losses; to Arkansas, Kentucky, Texas A&M, Alabama, Georgia, Ole Miss and Auburn, Mississippi State scored a total of 88 points – less than 13 points per game.

Will 2021 be different? Leach played a lot of freshmen last season. His team will be older and more experienced. His DC, Zach Arnett was the coaching star in Starkville last season. Arnett did not have to rebuild his Bulldogs’ defense for 2021. Arnett has eight starters back, so his blitz-heavy scheme should be even more effective in 2021. Arnett’s best position group will be his defensive backs, but his linebackers and defensive line should also be good.

The question marks on offense are at quarterback and offensive line. The Bulldogs will likely not be good enough at either area. Will Rogers and transfer Chance Lovertich are competing for the starting QB job. Leach has praised the returning starter, Rogers for his leadership, but throwing accuracy will always be Leach’s top priority.

It is unfair to conclude Leach’s Air Raid will not cut it in the SEC. Last season, he inherited a rush-heavy offense and installed his pass-heavy version without the benefit of a spring practice. This season his players will better understand the scheme. If the Leach offense can work, when speedy SEC defenses drop eight into coverage, will be one of the top storylines in the league.

Alabama Football vs. Mississippi State

The Bulldogs don’t match up well with the Crimson Tide in any position group. The closest Mississippi State comes to the Tide in position group talent is wide receiver and defensive line – but neither is very close. Jaden Walley is the best of Leach’s receivers and he would battle for a second-unit rotation in Tuscaloosa. Charles Cross at left tackle is a future NFL first or second-round pick. Former, Crimson Tide player, Scott Lashley could be the other starting tackle.

Recently, the Bulldogs lost a key defender, Jordan Davis, to a season-ending ACL injury. Davis was once headed to Tuscaloosa for football but had to go JUCO instead.

Next. Reviewing regular-season Tide opponents: Tennessee. dark

How will the Bulldogs do overall? A 6-6 season will be a good result for Leach and perhaps provide some indication he is building something in Starkville.