10 bold predictions for Mississippi State football in 2020
With so much uncertainty about this season, here is one thing we absolutely can guarantee: Mississippi State will look much, much different than it did in 2019.
Mike Leach brings his iconic Air Raid scheme and an abundance of optimism as the Bulldogs head into the 2020 season.
Here are 10 bold predictions for Mississippi State’s season.
1. KJ Costello breaks Dak Prescott’s single-season passing yards record
If you haven’t heard by now, Leach is going to throw the football, a lot. He brings in Stanford grad transfer KJ Costello to run the offense in his first season. Injuries cut Costello’s 2019 season to just 5 games at Stanford, but he’s thrown for more than 6,000 yards in 25 games in his career. Leach’s offense at Washington State threw for 5,683 last season.
Dak Prescott set MSU’s record with 3,793 passing yards in 2015. He threw it 477 times. (He remains the only MSU QB to top 3,000 yards, which he did twice.)
Even in a 10-game regular-season against better competition, Costello likely will throw it that many times and bump Prescott to 2nd-place.
2. Kylin Hill breaks MSU’s single-season all-purpose yards record
Arguably the best running back in the SEC returns. The Air Raid scheme may seem like an odd fit for the senior, but Max Borghi still ran for 817 yards and 11 touchdowns for Washington State last season. Success in the SEC is impossible without being able to run the football and Hill will likely still see a hefty workload. Borhi also totaled a 500-yard receiving season out of the backfield and Hill could benefit from showing that skill set to NFL scouts, too. His 242 carries in 2019 will shrink, but he’ll still get the ball more than enough times to make a run at Nick Turner’s school record of 1,664 all-purpose yards (rushing/receiving/returns). Hill totaled 1,530 last year.
3. Osirus Mitchell leads MSU in receiving yards
Mississippi State struggled to throw the football under Joe Moorhead. Mitchell’s most productive year as a junior consisted of 29 catches for 430 yards and 6 touchdowns. A 6-5, physical receiver, Mitchell will be used more frequently in Leach’s system. He leads the Bulldogs in receptions and yards in 2020.
4. Mississippi State goes 4-1 at home
The Bulldogs’ home slate is pretty manageable, even with the shift to a 10-game, conference-only slate. Mississippi State gets Arkansas, Texas A&M, Auburn, Missouri and Vanderbilt inside Davis Wade Stadium. If the Bulldogs can find a way to split against A&M and Auburn, they will likely be favored in the other 3 home games. With the appeasing home schedule, Mississippi State could be set up for a winning season in this modified slate.
5. Mississippi State goes 0-5 on the road
This isn’t necessarily likely, but it is certainly possible. As favorable as the Bulldogs’ home schedule is, the road slate is brutal with Georgia being its additional East road draw. Mississippi State opens the year at LSU, goes to Kentucky 2 weeks later to face what could be the best Wildcats team of the Mark Stoops era. The next 2 road games are at Alabama and Georgia before a trip to Oxford in the season’s penultimate week. The best shot at a road win is at Ole Miss.
6. Leading tackler Erroll Thompson
Thompson led the team with 84 last season. After deciding to return for his senior year, he has a shot to compile 90 tackles and lead the team again. In the 3-3-5 system, Thompson is sure to thrive. He leads the team in tackles again and enhances his draft stock in the process.
7. Kobe Jones leads the team in sacks
Jones totaled 4 as a junior — just 1 shy of team-leader Chauncey Rivers. With Rivers departing, Jones will be even more vital to generating a pass rush. He nearly doubles his total from his junior campaign and leads new defensive coordinator Zach Arnett’s unit in sacks.
8. Jordan Davis is the most impactful newcomer
Also a sacks leader candidate, Davis was the No. 2 overall JUCO prospect in the 2020 class and a crucial defensive land for the Bulldogs. The 6-4, 250-pound defensive end is a long, physical pass rusher who could also see some time at outside linebacker in this 3-3-5 scheme. He’ll be an immediate impact guy for Arnett and the defense, and a valuable one at that.
9. One Bulldog receiver earns All-SEC honors
The biggest question for Leach and Mississippi State in Year 1 is do the Bulldogs have the skill personnel to run Leach’s system successfully? Mississippi State has struggled to recruit wide receivers, in part because of Dan Mullen’s run-oriented scheme for nearly a decade. But if there is one thing Leach has shown, it’s that he maximizes his talent, recruiting stars aside. If the Mississippi State offense is even remotely successful in 2020, then a receiver, and likely multiple receivers, will have gaudy stat lines. With the conference as a whole losing a lot of receiver talent to the NFL Draft, one of Costello’s targets will have a shot to crack All-SEC honors due to the sheer volume of passing yards.
10. Lideatrick Griffin sees large freshman role
Speaking of receivers, Griffin committed to Mississippi State last summer and has a real opportunity at playing time immediately. State needs pass catchers and Griffin is a playmaker. The 4-star athlete played running back and receiver in high school, as well as helping out in the secondary. Griffin finds the football and has a chance to be a breakout freshman this fall.