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Mississippi State likes to throw the ball. A lot. So it’s a good thing they had Will Rogers, who statistically was one of the best quarterbacks in the nation this season. Rogers finished second in the nation in passing yards (4,449) and eighth in touchdowns (35) while he threw just eight interceptions.
Rogers certainly had a favorite target in junior Makai Polk – who finished as a second-team All SEC receiver. Polk caught 98 balls for 989 yards and nine scores – all which led the team.
But what makes this offense so potent is the amount of different players who can burn you. The Bulldogs have 10 different players who had 200 or more receiving yards, five who have 442 yards or more and seven different players who caught at least three touchdown passes.
Jaden Walley had 610 yards and six scores, Austin Williams had 543 yards and four scores and Mike Heath had 442 yards and five scores.
There’s no doubt this is going to be a tall task for a Texas Tech defense that ranked 91st in the nation in total defense but ranked in the bottom 10 percent of passing defenses in the country, coming it at 117th, giving up more than 266 yards through the air per contest.
Did somebody say shootout? Now you’re speaking Texas Tech’s language. Well, normally.
This year wasn’t quite the same – but that’s really because the Red Raiders needed to use three quarterbacks throughout the season. This was supposed to be Tyler Shough’s team, but a broken collarbone early in the year changed that.
Then Henry Colombi took over, but for all of his heart and hard work (by all accounts he’s a gamer) he didn’t quite have the arm talent to handle the position and got benched after a rough game against Oklahoma.
That’s when freshman Donovan Smith took over and perhaps gave Tech fans and glimpse of the future. Smith, who stands 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds, completed 63.1 percent of his passes for six touchdowns and two interceptions, but the Red Raiders went just 1-4 in the five games he appeared in.
The x-factor for these two offenses that love to pass is of course the ground game.
For Mississippi State, that’s the two-headed tandem of Dillon Johnson and Jo’quavious Marks.
Johnson ran for 423 yards and four scores and caught 62 balls for 396 yards and one score, while Marks had 397 ground yards and a team-high six rushing touchdowns to go with 79 catches for 464 yards and three scores.
As for the Red Raiders, it also was a running back by committee, but it was a three-man backfield. Taj Brooks (71 rushes, 461 yards and six scores) SaRodrick Thompson (93 rushes for 420 yards and nine scores) and Xavier White (64 rushes for 300 yards and three scores) will try to help the offense try and find ways to move the ball.
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|Mississippi State Bulldogs vs Texas Tech Red Raiders Information|
|Teams||Mississippi State Bulldogs vs. Texas Tech Red Raiders|
|Location||Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium, Memphis, Tenn.|
|Time||Tuesday, Dec. 28, 6:45 p.m. EST|
|How to watch||ESPN|
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Tony writes about baseball for WSN.com after recently graduating with his Masters from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. Prior to that, Tony was a local sports reporter for MLive Media Group, based out of Jackson, Michigan where he covered everything from high school to professional sports. He graduated from Michigan State in 2015 with a degree in journalism. During his time there he covered the Michigan State football and men’s basketball teams from 2013-15 and hosted a sports radio show on WDBM 89FM.More info on Tony Garcia
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