The UA is a 10.5-point underdog, according to DraftKings Sportsbook.
Who will win? Here’s what our staff thinks:
Kim Doss — Mississippi State wins 42-34
Until teams have several games under their belts against decent competition, score projections will always be a crap shoot. This is another one where the best information to go on is the lines and what they did last season.
MSU averaged 441.5 yards per game last season with just over 378 coming through the air. Last week against Memphis, it was 571 yards with 450 through the air. Arizona should be a better defensive match for the Bulldogs than the Tigers were, but I think this is just too much of a step up in offensive efficiency from an offense led by Braxton Burmeister to one led by Will Rogers.
Ezra Amacher — Mississippi State wins 38-27
Arizona’s will have to give a bend-but-don’t-break effort against Mississippi State. Bulldogs quarterback Will Rogers led the SEC in passing yards per game last year as a sophomore, and he appears to be even more efficient this year, completing 38 of 49 passes for 450 yards. Rogers has plenty of weapons as he incorporated 12 different receivers into the fold in week one. The Bulldogs also have a capable running back in Dillon Johnson. Mississippi State is going to score its share of points, which means it’s up to the Arizona offense to counter.
That’s where I’m not sold. Arizona’s offensive line was pretty mediocre against SDSU according to PFF, and they’re going to have their hands full against an experienced Bulldogs group. The Wildcats will stall on a few too many drives, and that will cost them a chance to win.
Adam Green — Mississippi State wins 41-31
Oh wow, last week’s effort against San Diego State really makes you think the Cats can win this one. Arizona has a legitimate starting QB, top-shelf weapons at WR and a running game that, well, impressed. Further, the defense was excellent.
Unfortunately for the Wildcats, an SEC team — even a middling one — represents a different and much stiffer challenge. Fortunately, they should have some familiarity with what Mississippi State wants to do, with them running a Mike Leach offense, but that probably won’t be enough.
Arizona has the horses to make this a game, and if the Wildcats can limit the mistakes they’ll be in it until the end. Just, this has the feel of one where Arizona will have to play nearly perfect to win, and that’s just too much to ask at this point in the rebuild.
Brandon Combs — Mississippi State wins 42-38
This game is going to be interesting. It almost always is when Arizona plays Mike Leach. The interesting thing is this is the first time ever that Arizona has a competent defense while playing a Leach offense. So this should be fun.
Arizona showed massive improvement in all three phases of their game against San Diego State. However, I don’t think the defense will be able to hold off MSU’s potent passing attack. Will Rogers is the real deal. Arizona will have to get pressure on him to disrupt the flow of the offense.
Offensively, the QB and skill position rooms are much improved from last year so that won’t be the issue. However, the offensive line will need to be more effective in pass blocking. They didn’t give up any sacks against SDSU (the one was just a smart play by JDL), but they did allow a lot of pressure on JDL. If they can keep the pocket cleaner than they did in San Diego, this prediction might be wrong.
It boils down to the fact that I think the Bulldogs will play a cleaner game, allowing them to squeak out a win in Tucson.
Brian J. Pedersen — Mississippi State wins 38-30
Arizona’s performance at San Diego State, both offensively and defensively, showed that there’s been major improvement since last season. But it also showed there are still flaws and deficiencies that a much better opponent will expose, and MSU is just such an opponent. The Bulldogs’ pass attack is not something that a scout team can really prepare you for, and a stout front six could quickly expose Arizona’s shaky offensive line. The Wildcats will hang around and keep it interesting but they don’t have the same level of across-the-board talent as this mid-tier SEC team.
Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.