Prediction, Preview, and Odds
#161 Mississippi St vs.
#162 Memphis
Saturday, September 18, 2021 at 4:00pm EDT
Written by Eric P.

The Memphis Tigers host the Mississippi State Bulldogs on Saturday afternoon from Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium in a crucial non-conference tilt. Both teams come in undefeated, each at 2-0, and have quite a bit riding on this game. The Tigers are looking for a massive resume win over an SEC team before they started with their AAC slate, For the Bulldogs, year two of the Mike Leach era has been met with quite a bit of success, especially after last week, but going on the road could prove to be a challenge. Memphis brings in the top offense and one of the worst defenses in the country and will have their hands full against a Bulldog team that has some talent and experience on both sides of the ball, even without a standout. Heading back into last year, Mississippi State has won four games in a row and as Leach has had more time with the team, more success has been evident. For Memphis, they've won seven in a row dating back to last year themselves. Something will have to give in this matchup though and it's expected to be one of the best non-conference games on Saturday's slate.

Bulldogs Off To Fast Start

The opener against Louisiana Tech had fans on the back of their heels slightly but that was quickly met with excitement after last week. The Bulldogs welcome an NC State team was has been hyped as an ACC darkhorse and beat them 24-10 with relative ease. A win on the road against Memphis wouldn't only give them a 3-0 start but would set them up with some momentum for a treacherous slate of games coming up against LSU, Texas A&M, and Alabama. Picked to finish last in the SEC West, according to the conference's preseason poll, the Bulldogs are slowly started to see some heads turn in the conference as to who might be on the come up. Leach has shown that with more consistent practice time, that it would only be a matter of time before he started pulling off some impressive wins for the Bulldogs. One area of concern though is that each of their last four wins has all come at home or on a neutral field. They've lost their last three road games and it'll be tough heading on the road for the first time this season.

Mississippi State's offense lit the world on fire in last year's opener against LSU, but expectations were quickly dropped when they struggled steadily afterward. This season, they rank 71st in points per game and continue to air it out, ranking second in passing attempts per game. Will Rogers has taken control of the offense, leading the way with 332 yards per game through the air and five touchdowns, with only one interception. He threw for 370 yards in the season opener and has a good shot at putting up similar numbers on Saturday. The rushing attack is a major concern though, as last year they struggled when they were unable to get that going. Jo'quavious Marks is the leader, averaging 41 yards per game, but they will need to make a more solid effort on the ground to take down Memphis. One key advantage is the Bulldogs' depth at wide receiver and tight end. They have five players averaging over 40 yards a game, Makai Polk has established himself as the go-to player, with 14 catches, while Marks has added 16 catches of his own out of the backfield.

Defensively, the Bulldogs haven't been great but have at least been better than Memphis. They rank 62nd in scoring defense in the country but will have their hands full with the speed and athleticism that they'll see on Saturday. Mississippi State has an amazing eight players with double-digit tackles through just two games. Fred Peters has established himself as the leader, with 15 tackles and an interception to insert himself nicely into the secondary. The Bulldogs also have sacks from five different players, just showing how deep their pass rush is upfront. With four turnovers already on the year, look for them to grab a few more against Memphis to shift the momentum of the game and take advantage of the time of possession. Knowing that Saturday could be a battle and shootout, the Bulldogs do have the depth on defense to quite multiple backups into the game and that should prove to be an advantage that many of Memphis' opponents typically don't have.

Memphis Looking To Put AAC On Watch

Memphis has built a knack for itself over the last few years of developing into one of the most dynamic offenses in the country. While the defense has found ways to fall short in its own right, the offense will always be able to keep the Tigers in games. A dominant performance against Nicholls State was expected but the shootout last weekend against Arkansas State, a 55-50 win for Memphis, was somewhat unexpected. Being at home will be a massive boost though, especially considering they have won five in a row at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium. Picked to finish fifth in the AAC preseason poll, Saturday's game could bring Memphis back to reality or might serve to show that they can be a contender in the AAC. The offense is where it needs to be but the question remains how the defense will shape up when tasked with stopping an SEC foe, especially one with one of college football's top offensive minds at the helm.

Memphis offense ranks sixth nationally in points per game but their offense is tops in the country. They rank first in total yards per game and tenth in total yards per play, setting themselves up for some big chunk plays on Saturday. Just a freshman, Seth Henigan is the leader at quarterback, averaging 341 yards per game through the air and adding six touchdowns and no interceptions. On the ground, Brandon Thomas has been one of the top backs in the country in the early going, averaging 169 yards per game and adding three touchdowns. With Rodrigues Clark averaging 73 rushing yards per game himself, Memphis is set up with two of the best backs in the country. Then add in Calvin Austin III (12 catches, 286 yards, four touchdowns), and this offense very quickly shows why they're one of the best and most dynamic in the nation.

Defensively is where the trouble starts for the Tigers. They rank 11th in the country in scoring offense and after allowing 50 points to Arkansas State, there is room for concern on how they'll fare against Mississippi State. The Tiger boasts five players themselves who have double-digit tackles and Quindell Johnson has led the way so far, with 16. One area of concern is their ability to pressure the quarterback. With only two sacks on the season, facing a quarterback like Rogers for the Bulldogs could present some unique challenges if he all day to throw. The issue with winning in shoutouts is also it just takes one stout defense to throw your offense off your game and in turn, your defense can hold it down and find the win. Memphis needs the defense to stop being the weak spot of the team and Saturday is a great opportunity for them to rise up to the occasion.

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Full-Game Side Bet

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Memphis has all the allure right now with how well their offense is performing but it's hard to take much stock in that given the lack of quality in their schedule through the first two weeks. Add in the fact that they allowed 50 points to Arkansas State and Mississippi State will be ready to get the offense out there and rolling on Saturday. The Bulldogs, on the other hand, took down a strong NC State last week and made it look easy. Just that one win against a quality opponent has proven more than anything fans have seen from Memphis. Memphis' style also plays right into the hands of Mississippi State and the coaching staff and while usually, that gives them an advantage, could be to their detriment on Saturday at home. Expect the Bulldogs to continue their strong run of play on offense and use their force and depth on defense to stun the Tigers. Mississippi State shouldn't have any issues moving the ball on offense and their defense will be more than up to the challenge of taking down Memphis and slowing them down.

Prediction: Mississippi State (-3)

Full-Game Total Pick

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While Memphis has one of the best offenses and one of the worst defenses in the country, the fact they are playing Mississippi State should keep the scoring down more than usual. 63 points is a lot of points in a game involving an SEC defense, especially one that has been strong so far this year. Memphis' offensive numbers are great but the question remains how they will hold up against a quality opponent. The Bulldogs have the offense to put up numbers but the scoring isn't quite there yet and their focus will be n hanging onto the ball and keeping Memphis off the offensive side of the field as much as possible. Additionally, according to covers.com, for Mississippi State, the under is 6-1 in their last seven games after accumulating more than 280 yards passing in their previous game, is 5-1 in their last six games after allowing less than 170 yards passing in their previous game, and is 8-2 in their last ten games after accumulating less than 100 yards rushing in their previous game. For Memphis, the under is 3-0-1 in their last four games after accumulating more than 450 total yards in their previous game and is 5-1 in their last six games overall.

Prediction: Under 63
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Written By Eric Ploch , "Eric P."

Eric grew up surrounded by sports, whether it was spending the weekend catching games in person or on tv, or heading out to the fields to play whatever sport was in season. What started as a hobby, soon became a passion, as he became the sports editor of his high school newspaper, then wrote for his university newspaper during his undergrad years. After obtaining a degree in Sports Operations and Promotions, and spending 8 years deeply immersed in the sports world, Eric decided to take his love for analytics and predictions, and his experience, to online sports fans everywhere. James is now an integral part of our team here at StatSalt and has also been a very successful sports bettor over the years. Be sure and follow him daily.