Mississippi State vs. Arizona Picks & Predictions: Expect Plenty of Points in Tucson
Wesley Hitt/Getty Images. Pictured: Mississippi State quarterback Will Rogers.
- Mississippi State travels to Tucson for an intriguing non-conference matchup.
- The Wildcats impressed with a win over San Diego State last week and will look to carry that momentum over to their home opener.
- Thomas Schlarp previews the matchup and offers up a betting pick below.
Mississippi State vs. Arizona Odds
It will be a reunion of sorts when Arizona's Jayden de Laura — the reigning Pac-12 Freshman Offensive Player of the Year — faces off against Mississippi State and Mike Leach, the coach that originally recruited him to Washington State.
De Laura is now the offensive centerpiece of an Arizona team that already has as many wins as it did last season.
Meanwhile, Leach is in his third year at the helm of the Bulldogs.
Jedd Fisch's Wildcats are retooled and poised for their best season in quite a few years, but Mississippi State is a much stronger opponent than they faced in Week 1.
Can Arizona keep the momentum rolling, or will the Bulldogs prove to be too much of a hurdle?
It should come as no surprise that Will Rogers and the Mississippi State offense looked to be in mid-season form against Memphis in Week 1, outgaining the Tigers 542 yards to 294.
The third-year starter passed for 450 yards and five scores.
The strength of any Leach team is the passing game, and the Bulldogs have plenty of options to turn to with 72.2% of their receptions returning from last season. 12 different players caught a pass against Memphis. On passing downs, Mississippi State had the fourth-highest Success Rate.
With the game in hand, Mississippi State also ran the ball 34 times — a number eclipsed only once by the Bulldogs last season — for 107 yards and were surprisingly effective with the 17th-best Success Rate.
While the offense garners the lion's share of the attention, the Bulldogs have quietly had one of the better defenses in the SEC during Leach's tenure, and 2022 should be more of the same.
Mississippi State’s defense held Memphis to 29 first-half yards and just a single first down. It also only allowed three first-half points. However, things eventually got sloppy, as the Tigers scored a touchdown on each of their final three drives of the game.
It didn't take long for Arizona to match its 2021 win total, avenging a loss to San Diego State in a 38-20 Week 1 win. It's no small achievement either, as the Aztecs are coming off of a 12-2 season and are expected to compete at the top of the Mountain West Conference.
The headlining performances were those of Washington State transfer quarterback de Laura and UTEP transfer wideout Jacob Cowing. The sophomore quarterback finished 22-of-35 for 299 yards and four touchdowns, and Cowing had eight catches for 152 yards and three scores.
The offensive line also appeared to have made massive strides since last year. The line allowed a whopping 35 sacks last season, but the Aztecs were only able to get to de Laura once.
The Wildcats ran the ball for 162 yards, over 30 yards more than their 2021 season average.
The defense was an even bigger surprise, as Arizona held San Diego State to 62 passing yards, the fewest it has allowed since 2010. The Aztecs feature a run-heavy offense and passed just 16 times, but Virginia Tech transfer Braxton Burmeister was expected to upgrade San Diego State's passing offense.
The Wildcats still have some work to do on the defensive line. They were able to sack Burmeister only once, and the Aztecs recorded 170 rushing yards on 42 carries.
Mississippi State vs. Arizona Betting Pick
Mississippi State opened as an eight-point favorite before the line quickly moved to 11.5.
We have now had a full week's worth of media-cycle takes about a significant talent disparity between the SEC and Pac-12 after the Conference of Champions laid an egg in Week 1.
However, I don't think the books and the public have caught up to the transformation that's happening in Tucson.
That said, I'm still not convinced of the Arizona defense. San Diego State's offense might just not be very good this season. The one thing we know for sure about the Wildcats is their two-headed monster — de Laura and Cowing — is talented. And I think they'll continue to shine in their home debut.
Leach and Rogers are no strangers to shootouts. This game could get extra weird and last well into the morning on the East Coast. Arizona could very well stay within the number, but the safer bet is to back the known offensive commodities and play over 57.5.