Memphis vs. Mississippi State Betting Odds & Picks: Expect Defenses to Dominate
Wesley Hitt/Getty Images. Pictured: Mississippi State quarterback Will Rogers.
Memphis vs. Mississippi State Odds
-110o / -110u
|Mississippi State Odds|
-110o / -110u
Mississippi State will look to avenge last season’s loss to Memphis in what was one of the wildest regular-season games of the year.
After returning a fumble for a touchdown earlier in the game, the Tigers added another non-offensive score when the electric Calvin Austin III returned a punt 94 yards to the house on a play the SEC later admitted should’ve never happened.
— American Football (@American_FB) September 18, 2021
That put Memphis up 28-17 with just over five minutes remaining. Mississippi State answered with touchdowns on its next two drives sandwiched between a 51-yard Memphis field goal after recovering an onside kick.
However, despite outgaining Memphis, 468-246, Mississippi State lost by a score of 31-29 after failing to convert either of its two-point conversions on those successive touchdowns.
With the rematch now in StarkVegas, can Mississippi State exact revenge, or can Memphis tune out the cowbells en route to a major upset? Let’s take a closer look.
The Tigers improved to 3-0 after beating Mississippi State, but things quickly turned sour. They dropped their next three games, including a bad loss at Temple, and finished 6-6 after having their bowl game against Hawaii canceled.
Freshman All-American Seth Henigan returns under center after showing plenty of promise as the program’s first-ever true freshman to start at quarterback.
However, he’ll have to adjust to life without three departed first-team All-AAC players:
- WR Calvin Austin (4th Round, NFL Draft)
- TE Sean Dykes (got a shot in Green Bay’s minicamp)
- OG Dylan Parham (3rd Round, NFL Draft)
Austin and Dykes combined for 122 catches, 1,806 yards and 16 total touchdowns. Austin had more receptions (74), yards (1,149) and touchdowns (10) than the other three primary wide receivers combined!
Henigan will surely miss that irreplaceable duo.
Consequently, Memphis should lean on its run game, especially early on under new offensive coordinator Tim Cramsey. The former Marshall OC specializes in that department, and he has an experienced backfield that added transfer Jay Ducker, who rushed for nearly 1,200 yards at Northern Illinois last year.
Head coach Ryan Silverfield also brought in new defensive coordinator Matt Barnes from Ohio State. There’s really nowhere to to go but up for this unit that was downright dreadful in almost every category.
I’d expect an improvement on regression alone after finishing the 2021 season with only 15 takeaways and the nation’s fifth-highest third-down conversion rate.
Barnes will try to fix the horrific run defense by transitioning the base to a four-man front and hope an experienced secondary can take care of business on the back end.
Compared to Memphis, Mississippi State has much more continuity on the staff in addition to one of the most experienced rosters in FBS.
Head coach (and offensive coordinator) Mike Leach returns for his third year in Starkville along with defensive coordinator Zach Arnett and his 3-3-5 base.
There’s plenty of optimism in Starkville with the return of quarterback Will Rogers, who shined in his sophomore season with nearly 5,000 passing yards.
In his two-decade-plus head coaching career, Leach has had a third-year starting quarterback only three times; each of those teams won at least nine games. That makes sense in an offense that requires precise timing and repetition.
The Bulldogs do need to replace both starting tackles, including top-10 draft pick Charles Cross. Even in a quick-strike offense, that’s still the group to monitor with right guard Kwatrivous Johnson sliding over to left tackle.
Additionally, leading receiver Makai Polk, who caught 105 balls last year, now resides on the Baltimore Ravens. Rogers still has plenty of weapons at his disposal, although I didn’t expect to see Jaden Walley listed second on the depth chart.
The other side of the ball is absolutely loaded. To me, this defense has been one of the most underrated units over the past few seasons. The front six has no holes, especially with Alabama transfer Jordan Davis returning from injury.
On the back end, pro prospect Emmanuel Forbes locks down one cornerback spot. He did lose running mate Martin Emerson to the NFL, but the reinforcements from the transfer portal help alleviate any concerns.
The Mississippi State defense is deep, experienced and talented at every level.
Lastly, Mississippi State had a shameful kicking game in 2021, but it addressed that major gap in the transfer portal.
Memphis vs. Mississippi State Betting Pick
I like the under for a few reasons.
Yes, these teams combined for 60 points last year, but that took a pair of non-offensive touchdowns from Memphis to reach 31 in a game it amassed less than 250 total yards and only 12 first downs.
Keep in mind Austin scored three touchdowns with over 100 receiving yards. He’s gone. For Mississippi State, Polk and Malik Heath combined for 20 catches, 224 yards and two touchdowns in the loss. They have also moved on.
Under a new coordinator, the Tigers should utilize a more run-heavy attack at a reduced pace, which they did more frequently at the end of last season. Regardless, the stacked Bulldog defense should have the upper hand in a hostile environment.
Memphis does at least have a very good punter, which certainly doesn’t hurt the under.
Meanwhile, Mississippi State, while pass-heavy, always plays slow in its short-passing, ball-control offense. Rogers should have a massive season, but the offense might not have its timing down out of the gates with major shifts along the offensive line and new pieces at receiver.
For reference, throughout camp, the Bulldog defense has had the upper hand. And while not great, the Memphis defense should improve a bit.