Life in SEC West is hard, and the state of Mississippi knows it all too well. However, the Bulldogs could take a step forward and move up the standings in Mike Leach’s third season as head coach.

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In the latest episode of the Cover 3 podcast Tom Fornelli of CBS Sports said Mississippi State could be a team to watch in the West this fall. To begin with, the Bulldogs’ record of 7-6 last year may have been the result of an unfortunate set of circumstances. Mississippi State beat the teams in the games by one score, but it was only 2-3 in that contest.

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“This is a team last year, they were pretty good defensively,” Fornelli said. “You’re not used to Mike Leach the teams were good defensively, but they were. If you look at them this season, they led the opposition by 1,254 yards at 7-6. This is not what you tend to see. In games with one score, they were 2-3. And that’s despite a 665-yard lead in those games. It was the best result of any team in the country in one-point games, and in those games they had a difference of minus three turnovers. If a couple of rebounds run their course, they’ll probably finish 8-5 or 9-4.”

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On top of that, many of Mike Leach’s past teams were promoted in their third year. For some reason, Leach’s programs seem to be running at full capacity after their second year of operation. The Bulldogs have a really tight schedule, but no team can take them lightly in 2022.

“If you look at Mike Leach traditionally, his teams tend to take a step forward in their 3rd or 4th year,” Fornelli said. β€œIt happened at Texas Tech. It happened in Washington State. It could have happened in Mississippi. The only thing that makes me think is if you look at their schedule. They’re in the SEC, so it’s never going to be easy, but they should be in LSU, Kentucky, Alabama, and Ole Miss. They also draw. Georgia from the East. It will probably limit their records, but if this team comes third in the SEC West, I won’t be shocked.”

Mike Leach’s first season at Mississippi went 4-7, a somewhat disappointing record. However, the team has shown some progress in 2021, going 4–4 in conference play and taking wins against Texas A&M, Vanderbilt, Kentucky and Auburn.

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The 2022 campaign kicks off with a tough test for the Lich and the Bulldogs as host of Memphis on September 3rd.