The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

Smith: Looking ahead to the 2022 football season

Landon Scheel | The Reflector

MSU starting quarterback Will Rogers slings the pigskin in action this past season. Rogers is returning for his junior year in 2022.

Welcome to year three of the Mike Leach show, which is on a steady climb with improvement throughout the first two seasons.

Mississippi State University went 3-7 in the all-SEC regular season schedule 2020 provided us, while gaining a fourth win in the Armed Forces Bowl over Tulsa. In 2021, MSU went 7-6 overall (4-4 in conference play) but closed the season with two losses. One of those was to Ole Miss and the other to Texas Tech in the Liberty Bowl.

We can only hope the improvements keep coming this season, as the schedule is the toughest yet. 

Outside of conference play, MSU will host Memphis, Bowling Green and East Tennessee State, while traveling to Tucson to face off with Arizona. It’s not far-fetched to say MSU should go 4-0 in non-conference play. Losing on the road last year to Memphis, MSU should be out for revenge. Since they hold a 16-5 record playing the Tigers in Starkville, expect a win against Memphis.

Bowling Green and East Tennessee State are both considered “buy” games. MSU is paying them to come play in Starkville, and these games should never be lost. Arizona’s football program is not in great shape at the moment, going 1-16 over the past two seasons. Leach holds a 4-1 record against Arizona, all coming from his time at Washington State. 

MSU should be able to handle 4-0 outside of conference play, but this is one of the tougher conference schedules in recent history. The Bulldogs will be tasked with facing off against Alabama, Auburn and Georgia over a four week stretch and will play Ole Miss in Oxford to end the season. Alabama and Georgia could be the top two teams in the country this season, and MSU gets the pleasure of playing both.

MSU is hosting Arkansas and Texas A&M and will go on the road for Kentucky and a new-look LSU. There’s no certainty as to how good any of these four teams will be. Texas A&M has high expectations as always, but there’s no telling if they pan out.

MSU is bringing in the No. 31 ranked recruiting class according to 247 Sports. MSU’s top recruit is Trevion Williams, a four-star defensive lineman from Crystal Springs, MS. Defensive Line Coach Jeff Phelps said he is excited about Williams.

“He’s definitely a guy who’s gonna be exciting to watch on Saturdays and a guy we anticipate getting on the field pretty quick in his career,” Phelps said.

MSU has a history of commanding one of the top defensive lines, and defenses in general, in the conference, and adding a player like Williams will assist in continuing that level of expectation.

Defensive coordinator Zach Arnett saw good defense in practices this spring.

“Anytime you go spring, you’ve got to find some guys who’ve taken the next step in their game, and they show that they’re ready to be big time contributors, and potentially win starting jobs,” Arnett said with a smile. “We’ve had a few guys that have flashed all the potential and that’s the reason you recruited them. They’re playing really good football and I’m excited to see them come fall.”

So, what’s the realistic expectations for MSU this fall? Quarterback Will Rogers from Brandon, MS, is back for his third season, and he’s got high expectations around him. The offense seemed to be a let down spot at times last season, but another year of experience will benefit the junior signal caller. 

In his third season at Texas Tech, Leach led the Red Raiders to a nine-win campaign. It’s realistic to expect the same now. This MSU team is poised with loads of potential and experience and looking to make some noise in the SEC West. 

It’s hard to compete with the two teams that made the national championship last season, but outside of that, everyone is beatable with the talent on this roster.

A big season could be coming for the Bulldogs, so buckle up and enjoy the ride. 

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Smith: Looking ahead to the 2022 football season