The 2021 AutoZone Liberty Bowl features the 7-5 Mississippi State Bulldogs against the 6-6 Texas Tech Red Raiders. Here is the 2021 AutoZone Liberty Bowl Preview.
Mississippi State Bulldogs (7-5)
It was an up and down year for the Bulldogs but Mike Leach’s second year in Starkville proved to be an overall success. Mississippi State managed three wins over ranked opponents in 2021 after a rocky start to the season.
As is standard the offense was all pass and no run. Sophomore gunslinger Will Rogers returned from last year with an impressive year. The Mississippi native led the SEC in passing yards with 4.449 to go along with his 35 touchdowns and 8 interceptions. Rogers set an SEC record in completion percentage in a game (minimum 30 attempts) against Kentucky where he was 36 of 39.
Mississippi State was very good against the run allowing just 101.2ypg on the ground. They were less effective against the pass but still have some dangerous weapons in the secondary. Emmanuel Forbes led the team in interceptions this year in just his sophomore year. And junior Martin Emerson will be playing his final game as he has declared for the NFL Draft.
Texas Tech Red Raiders (6-6)
Texas Tech is bowl eligible despite a midseason firing of then head coach Matt Wells. Tech was 5-2 coming off a loss to Kansas State – a team that had 8 consecutive Big12 losses – when they fired Wells. An upset win over Iowa State gave the Red Raiders their first bowl appearance since 2017.
Texas Tech leans more to the air as well to move their offense, despite problems at quarterback for most of the year. After injury and a second quarterback change, true freshman Donovan Smith has proven to be the guy. Over the toughest stretch of games this season, including three top ten teams, Smith had 6 touchdowns to 2 interceptions with a 62% completion percentage.
He’ll be without his top weapon Erik Ezukanma who was 1st team All-Big12 and has declared for the Draft. The offense will need to be at the top of their game however because of the Tech defense. The Red Raiders rank at the bottom of the Big12 against the pass allowing 265.6ypg which could make for a long day against the Bulldogs.
If Texas Tech wants to win this game they’re going to have to force Mississippi State to beat themselves. This means forcing a number of turnovers. The Bulldogs are in an ideal situation against a poor pass defense that’ll allow them to pick the Red Raiders apart all day and wear them down.
Mississippi State Bulldogs: 45, Texas Tech Red Raiders: 31
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