Mike Leach is heading to the SEC West as the new head coach of the Mississippi State Bulldogs. The former Washington State and Texas Tech boss brings with him an unvarnished Air Raid offense which is based in decades of tradition, passed down on stone tablets from Hal Mumme.
But how will it work in the toughest division in college football?
At first, probably not great! As CBS Sports Tom Fornelli points out, Wazzu threw the ball 77.92% of the time last season, the most in FBS football. But Mississippi State under former coach Joe Moorhead threw it only 39.18% of the time, good for 113th out of 130 teams.
Last year true freshman Garrett Shrader won the job as the Bulldogs quarterback and ended up victorious in the Egg Bowl, but he’s a dual-threat guy and not someone you can see running Leach’s uncut system. Who can the Dread Pirate get to even have a chance to be competitive this season?
MSU was 100-1 to win the SEC next year before this hire, and that shouldn’t change even with one of the most storied coaches in college football coming to Starkville. If anything, it could be a long year adjusting the personnel to the legendary plays like Mesh and Y-Cross that have been stolen by every offense in America from the Gazelle and Giraffe inside zone runs of Moorhead.
Any Air Raid system can’t operate without at least two healthy quarterbacks, because the offense is in a base 10 personnel about 90 percent of the time, which doesn’t give passers much protection. QBs put up numbers under Leach, but they also get hit and hurt a lot. How’s that going to go against some of the best college defenses ever assembled like those in Baton Rouge and Tuscaloosa?
With out-of-conference games against New Mexico, North Carolina State, and Tulane (and FCS Alabama A&M), there will be some win opportunities for the 2020 Bulldogs. But let’s not think there’s going to be overnight success either.
But the Egg Bowl with Lane Kiffin vs. Mike Leach? That’s going to be can’t miss television.