What will Red Raider fans do when Texas Tech vs. Mississippi State finally kickoff the Liberty Bowl Tuesday evening? There is a very vocal portion of this fan base that has never wavered in their support for coach Mike Leach and those fans plan on rooting for him over Texas Tech. This unique storyline could be dissected in 2.4 million ways, but the on-the-field action will not be affected by drama associated with Texas Tech and its former head coach. So what will the game actually look like when the Red Raiders and Bulldogs line up in Memphis?
When Texas Tech Has The Ball
All signs point to Donovan Smith starting the Liberty Bowl for Texas Tech. Smith has had flashes of brilliance this year, both running and passing the ball. He has put all of the tangible physical traits on display. But if Texas Tech is going to spring an upset, Smith is going to have to play his best game to date. He doesn’t need to try and force throws, but he must be consistent. In every game Smith has started, the Red Raiders have had at least one quarter where zero points were scored. Against this Bulldogs team, Smith and the offense are going to have to consistently find points from start to finish. It will also be even more challenging without their best playmaker.
It wasn’t a big surprise to see Erik Ezukanma declare for the draft as he could even sneak into the back end of the first round. Nevertheless, it’s a tremendous blow to this offense against a very stout Bulldog defense. Mississippi State is ranked 21st nationally in total defense, allowing only 330 per game. It is going to be hard to find conventional balance in this one as well. The Bulldogs are 10th best in the nation against the rush, surrendering only 100.8 yards a game. So it will be up to Smith and the passing attack to find ways to keep the ball moving. Without anything to lose, expect there to be multiple trick plays involved throughout the game to keep the Bulldogs guessing.
When Mississippi State Has The Ball
Texas Tech fans should already be pretty familiar with what Mississippi State should look like when they are on offense. Leach and the Air Raid have remained unchanged for the most part. Gone are the days of the offensive lineman splits large enough to drive an 18-wheeler through. But other than that, it will be able to spread the defense sideline to sideline and use the passing game to possess the ball. Just how little will they rely on the rushing attack? The Bulldogs are 130th in the nation, in rushing yards per game. There are only 130 FBS programs playing college football. Leach has had multiple games in his coaching career when he did not even attempt a rushing play. This could be one of those games.
Texas Tech’s passing defense is ranked 118th in passing yards allowed per game. The Red Raiders have also had struggles generating pressure on quarterbacks all season. They rank 117th in team sacks, only averaging just over one sack per game. A bit of good news for the Red Raider defense is the Bulldogs will be without its best offensive linemen Charles Cross. How Texas Tech chooses to bring pressure on Mississippi State quarterback Will Rogers all game will be a major factor.
Texas Tech vs. Mississippi State Prediction
With bowl games getting canceled left and right, both teams and fan bases are happy their teams appear to be in line to actually play the Liberty Bowl. Mississippi State is the better team on paper. When Texas Tech vs. Mississippi State kick it off, if the Bullgos play to their A-game, it will be very difficult for the Red Raiders to keep up. But this team has been different ever since the hire of new head coach Joey McGuire. It actually has brought stability and new life into this program. This should be a fired-up Texas Tech squad looking to send both its offensive and defensive coordinators off to their new jobs on a high note. And while the old pirate might be leading the team on the other sideline, nothing seems more appropriate to decide this one and close up the 2021 Texas Texas football season on its highest note.
Texas Tech 52, Mississippi State 49