Saturday College Football Odds & Betting Picks for Mississippi State vs. Louisiana Tech (Sept. 4)
Tim Warner/Getty Images. Pictured: Skip Holtz.
Mississippi State vs. Louisiana Tech Odds
Mike Leach’s first season in StarkVegas didn’t go as planned as the Bulldogs struggled and finished tied for last in the SEC West.
After an opening-game win at LSU, the wheels fell off and they lost seven out of their final nine games.
Mississippi State is eyeing a quick turnaround in Leach’s second season but will have a challenging opponent as Skip Holtz and Louisiana Tech come to town to kick off the 2021 season.
After six consecutive winning seasons and six consecutive bowl wins, Louisiana Tech had an uncharacteristic 2020 season and finished with a 5-5 record, including a blowout loss to Georgia Southern in the New Orleans Bowl.
The Bulldogs were hit with major injuries along the offensive line and lost their starting quarterback toward the end of season. This season, they return 17 starters and added a group of transfers that are poised to get Louisiana Tech back to their winning ways.
The questions at quarterback for Louisiana Tech may have been answered when former Oklahoma and West Virginia quarterback Austin Kendall transferred in.
With last season’s quarterback Luke Anthony still rehabbing a knee injury, Kendall has been named the starter. He has had an up-and-down career but has the talent and experience to be a productive player, especially in Conference USA.
The offensive line returns four starters, and the two transfers at tailback from App State and Vanderbilt respectively should help a ground game that was one of the worst in the country.
Louisiana Tech running backs averaged 2.88 yards per attempt, which is incredibly poor for any level of football.
The defense struggled last season, but it does return 10 starters and acquired a plethora of transfers in the secondary, which should help boost a defense that does have talented players across the board.
Baylen Buchanan, Elijah Hamilton and Myles Mason all transferred in from SEC schools. All three linebackers return with Tyler Grubbs and Trey Baldwin leading the way with 184 combined tackles between them. Grubbs was voted second-team all-conference and is a candidate for Conference USA Defensive Player of the year this season.
Mississippi State returns seven starters on both sides of the ball, which should improve team chemistry after the disappointment of last season. This is Leach’s first full off-season, which will help with game prep and expectations for the players and staff.
Last season was a struggle, but the Bulldogs did close strong with wins over Missouri and Tulsa. Mississippi State once again will have a strong defense and has one of the elite secondaries in the SEC and the country.
The offense must improve across the board for any major improvements to take place.
As a team, the Bulldogs averaged 43.9 rushing yards per game, which ranked 127th in the country. They only attempted to run the ball 18.5 times per game, which isn’t enough no matter what league or conference a team plays in.
Two key ways to evaluate an offense are by the number of explosive plays created and its red-zone touchdown percentage.
Miss State struggled in both areas a year ago.
It recorded only had 37 explosive plays of over 20+ yards and scored touchdowns on only 55% of their red-zone opportunities.
Defensively, Mississippi State has an up-and-coming defensive coordinator in Zach Arnett, who coached up a group that recorded 25 sacks as a unit. Arnett is an aggressive coach who expects his players to play behind the line of scrimmage.
Aaron Brule is the leader of the defense and led the country in quarterback hurries with 77 tackles from his linebacker spot.
The secondary returns three starters including corners Martin Emerson and Emmanuel Forbes, who are two of the top cornerbacks in the conference.
Louisiana Tech vs. Mississippi State Matchup Analysis
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Louisiana Tech Offense vs. Mississippi State Defense
Mississippi State Offense vs. Louisiana Tech Defense
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Louisiana Tech vs. Mississippi State Analysis & Betting Pick
I expect both teams to have better seasons than a year ago, especially Holtz and Louisiana Tech. Playing in Conference USA, it’s much easier to bounce back from a subpar season.
Historically, Leach’s teams have been much better in his second season, and that should be the case again.
Mississippi State has the advantage on the defensive side of the ball. It averaged 5.55 tackles for loss per game last season, and Louisiana Tech allowed 7.30 tackles for loss.
Miss State allowed only a touchdown on 55% of their opponents’ red-zone opportunities, which was 27th-best in the nation. However, being favored by over three touchdowns is too much against a team that has a history of knocking off Power Five teams.
Louisiana Tech will be much improved on defense, and it now has SEC talent in the secondary. With Austin Kendall behind center, he won’t be intimidated by the atmosphere in Starkville.
Holtz is a hard-nosed coach and runs a disciplined program. The Bulldogs were penalized only five times per game last season, and that type of discipline is what you are looking for when taking an underdog.
Mississippi State will win, but Louisiana Tech has the intangibles to keep this game within the number. Enjoy the games, and stay humble and hungry.