Homecoming weekend at Mississippi State is headlined by a Bulldog-on-Bulldog bout when the red and blue ‘dogs of Louisiana Tech come into Davis Wade Stadium to take on the Dawgs in maroon and white. LA Tech brings a 6-2 record when they come to face MSU, having only lost to LSU and UAB. This is perhaps one of the best teams in Conference USA. If there was a top 20 of Group of 5 teams, LA Tech would make the cut.
The man under center for LA Tech is junior J’Mar Smith. He’s completing 57% of his passes for 1940 yards and 12 touchdowns. He’s averaging 6.95 yards per attempt and has 6 interceptions on the season. Outside of one decent rushing game against Southern University in LA Tech’s second game, he hasn’t really done much with his legs. Mississippi State needs to get pressure (like it has done all year) to affect his accuracy. Smith’s worst games let a team like UAB upset LA Tech and kept lesser teams like South Alabama and UTEP hanging around with chances to win late. His best games ended in an upset of North Texas and a respectable score against LSU. The LA Tech run game has been piecemeal this season, so Smith has been the most productive player by far. Tech tailback Jaqwis Dancy is their leading rusher, averaging 80.8 yards per game in games he has played (he’s missed two). But he’s a guy that can go for 120 or not crack 35 on any given day, and either is just as likely as the other. Dancy averages 5.8 yards per carry, however, so there’s potential for him to do some damage if Tech gives him enough carries with which to do so. No other running back has more than 260 yards this year; Israel Tucker holds the second-place spot for LA Tech, owning 61 carries on the season.
In the receiving game, three guys lead the way for Tech. Adrian Hardy has 644 yards on 38 catches to go with 5 touchdowns. Teddy Veal has 48 catches for 532 yards and one touchdown, and Rhashid Bonnette has 300 yards amassed on 22 catches with one score. Bonnette did not record any statistics in LA Tech’s last game, and it is unknown if he will be available Saturday.
Louisiana Tech has given up 23 sacks in 8 games and averages 3.8 yards per rush. With MSU’s defensive front, the elevated level of their linebacker play, and Tech’s offensive front’s stats, one would think that the Maroon Dawgs would be able to impose their will on the red and blue ones. That isn’t a guarantee though. This is a confident team that has won three straight and, despite losing by a huge margin, punched us in the mouth early on in our matchup against LA Tech last season. They have a lot of Mississippi athletes that will be pumped to play in their home state, and there is no fear in this CUSA bunch. I expect the home Dawgs to prevail by a wide margin, but only if they’re focused for all four quarters.