Mississippi State defensive coordinator Todd Grantham has only been on the job for eight months, but it might already be time for a raise. Grantham and the Bulldogs’ stout defense look to build on an incredible performance in the season opener as they hit the road Saturday to face Louisiana Tech.
Mississippi State couldn’t have done much more on defense last weekend, limiting Charleston Southern to a paltry 33 total yards en route to a 49-0 drubbing; the Bulldogs held the Buccaneers to just two first downs while recording a pair of safeties. “For me, that’s the type of defense I expect,” head coach Dan Mullen told the media afterward. “Todd did a fantastic job with the scheme. I’m most pleased about watching how our guys ran to the football. Eleven guys going as hard as they can every play.” The Bulldogs offense was no slouch itself, piling up 555 total yards and 29 first downs. Louisiana Tech is also coming off a solid victory, scoring 28 unanswered points late to turn a closely-contested affair into a 52-24 rout of Northwestern State.
TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, CBSSN. LINE: Mississippi State -8
ABOUT MISSISSIPPI STATE (1-0): Lost in the Bulldogs’ superlative defensive effort was the performance of junior quarterback Nick Fitzgerald, who threw for 239 yards and two touchdowns and added 41 yards and a score on the ground. The rushing effort was part of a balanced effort by Mississippi State; nine different players had at least one carry for a Bulldogs team that compiled 281 rushing yards and three TDs. A defense that was much maligned in 2016 forced three fumbles against Charleston Southern, limited the Buccaneers to two third-down conversions in 14 attempts and held their rush attack to 18 yards on 39 attempts.
ABOUT LOUISIANA TECH (1-0): Senior running back Jarred Craft scored two of his three touchdowns in the fourth quarter to pace the Bulldogs, who stumbled through the first three quarters before pulling away from Northwestern State. Junior linebacker Dae’Von Washington was the catalyst for the late-game dominance, halting two straight Northwestern State drives with pivotal interceptions that led to short-field touchdowns for the victors. J’Mar Smith threw for 276 yards and a pair of touchdowns in just his second collegiate start, and added 72 rushing yards on 10 carries.
1. Mississippi State, which allowed an average of 459 yards per game last season, kept Charleston Southern on its own side of the field for the entire game as the Buccaneers didn’t advance past their own 48-yard line.
2. According to ESPN’s Points Above Expectation (PAE), Louisiana Tech has enjoyed the biggest home-field advantage in Division I since 2005, performing an average of 3.6 points better than expected.
3. Mississippi State hadn’t recorded a safety in a game since 2011 prior to last week’s win.
PREDICTION: Mississippi State 31, Louisiana Tech 17