Week 1 for Mississippi State should result in a comfortable victory. Most sportsbooks have the Bulldogs favored by more than three touchdowns against Louisiana Tech in Saturday’s game in Starkville. As important as it is to rack up wins when you can, it’s also important to set the stage for the season right out of the gate. For MSU, that means a high completion percentage, a lot of points and stopping the run.

While I am with Vegas in thinking that the Bulldogs will win easily, there are a few things I think could happen. Here are some bold predictions for the first game of the 2021 season.

1. MSU allows fewer than two touchdowns on defense

Mississippi State’s defense needs to improve this year if the Bulldogs want to be competitive in the SEC West. Their first opponent provides a great opportunity to build confidence, practice execution and build hype at a full Davis Wade Stadium. While it’s possible Louisiana Tech hits a field goal or scores a defensive touchdown, it won’t score more than two touchdowns on offense.

2. MSU allows fewer than 100 yards on the ground

Both teams had a tough time stopping the run in 2020. That said, Louisiana Tech will have a tough time running the ball on the road. Tech did not run the ball well in 2020; however, that wasn’t for a lack of trying. It attempted nearly 35 rushes per game but earned fewer than 3 yards per attempt. Head coach Skip Holtz will try to force his offense to establish the run, which will lead to predictable playcalling. After falling behind, Tech will abandon its efforts to run the football to chip away at the lead.

3. MSU rushes for more than 150 yards

I am not predicting a fundamental change in the air raid offense or that Mississippi State will call more run plays. Instead, I am predicting that MSU will hit some home runs. Tech returns 10 starters on defense; however, that defense was consistently gashed on the ground in 2020. Further, MSU consistently develops mid-level recruits into high-level college players, particularly in the secondary and on the offensive line. With SEC speed, running backs will need only a small crease to rip off a few runs of more than 35 yards.

4. Two different MSU quarterbacks throw a TD

The quarterback competition feels like it remains open. If that’s the case, both Will Rodgers and Chance Lovertich will get long-enough looks to score touchdowns. The important thing to watch will be if the switch comes early or if it happens later, along with some swaps at other offensive skill positions. Regardless, the offense will be successful enough for both guys to throw a touchdown.

5. MSU will be trailing or tied heading into the 2nd quarter

College football openers typically bring some funky stuff like this. Tech has had an entire camp to prepare for (arguably) its toughest opponent. It will be prepared and hyped to have a shot to take the fight to Mississippi State. A long opening drive from MSU and an effort to run the ball by Tech could lead to a quick first quarter, with a score in the neighborhood of 7-3. If this is the case, there’s no need to worry.

6. There will be multiple TDs of 70 yards

With an offense that throws as often as the Mike Leach air raid, catch-and-run touchdowns are something defenses need to be constantly worried about. For a less talented team like Tech to stop the threat of yards after the catch, it has to weaken its run defense. In order to stop the run, it will need to dedicate bodies to the box. In the 2020 opener, Mississippi State quarterback K.J. Costello threw 5 touchdowns, 4 of which were for 20 or more yards, including a 75-yard pass to running back Kylin Hill. Conversely, lack of communication, lack of experience or an overaggressive style can cause a mishap on defense leading to a similar huge play. With a full house for the first time in nearly two years, there are bound to be mistakes by both teams.