Mixed expectations surround Mississippi State football as it prepares to open perhaps the toughest schedule of the 2022 season against the Memphis Tigers at Davis Wade Stadium on Sept. 3.
The Bulldogs enter the matchup as heavy favorites with a -16.5 point spread, according to SI Sportsbook on Aug. 26. The plus/minus is 57 points, with the money line at MSU at -752 and at +450 for Memphis.
If you’re looking to place an ante, here’s what you need to know.
The thin one: MSU enters the season with one of the best quarterbacks in the SEC in junior quarterback Will Rogers and progressively clicked on offense in the second half of the season while maintaining a solid defense throughout most of 2021. While missed passes were an issue all camp that seems to be on track to remedy itself through continued offseason work, between that and the rusty start the Bulldogs had last year it would be easy to see why one I’d be wary of expecting the team to win by more than two touchdowns to cover the spread. State put together one of its biggest comebacks in school history against Louisiana Tech of all opponents early in the season last year, winning 35-34 after trailing 31-14 entering the fourth quarter of that game. Looking at last season’s matchup against Memphis in particular, the Bulldogs were victims of some egregious officiating errors that had a significant impact on the game’s losing score of 31-29, but they also couldn’t play a complete enough game in their own right in what was projected to be an easy win.
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Covering the spread: As noted above, between the inconsistencies the offense has displayed at some points during the offseason buildup and the way the unit took some time to really get going consistently last season, it’s not unreasonable to predict that there might be some glitches from the start once again. The Bulldogs must also make up for the loss of Makai Polk as a pass catcher, and it remains to be seen which wide receiver will come out on top within an offensive scheme that is known for spreading the ball relatively evenly. The Bulldogs should be expected to win this one outright, but there is some risk involved in betting on the team to cover this big spread.
To take the over or the under: When the Air Raid offense is in tune, he has no problem driving down the field quickly and putting up big numbers on both the scoreboard and the stat sheet. This will be a good first game to gauge where the unit is in terms of how quickly they’ll be able to get up and running and produce. The Tigers could also find their fair share of success offensively when they return to quarterback Seth Henigan, who had an impressive freshman campaign. He finished last season with a 59.8% completion rate, 3,322 passing yards, 28 touchdowns and eight interceptions to rank among the top freshman sign-callers in the nation. He’s the same quarterback who was also part of the 31-point effort on MSU’s defense last year. Defensively, the Tigers return with just four starters after allowing an average of 29.2 points per game last season. If recent history is any indication, the Bulldogs and Tigers combined for 60 points last season. Looking at all the factors, this is a tough call, but taking over the 57 points may be the best move.