Hi yes this is The Wednesday Wondering. It’s posted on Wednesdays. Sometimes it’s serious, sometimes it isn’t.
Defense is literally half of the game of football. Or, well, technically a third if you consider special teams, but since most people don’t consider special teams all that much, defense is functionally a half.
I don’t think Mississippi State needs a good defense. Maybe a mediocre one, or whatever exists between good and mediocre, but certainly not anything better than okay.
Here’s why: Mike Leach’s teams have proven that they can win without any sort of great defense.
In 2008, Texas Tech gave up 27.8 points per game (75th nationally), 382.6 total yards per game (80th), and 5.6 yards per play (82nd). The Red Raiders won 11 games that year.
In 2017, Washington State gave up 25.8 points per game (56th), 323.6 total yards per game (16th!!! THEY DID A GOOD THING DEFENSIVELY), and 5.1 yards per play (31st). Washington State won 9 games that season. They won 11 games in 2018 while giving up 23.3 points per game (42nd), 358.9 yards per game (42nd), and 5.6 yards per play (61st).
Wazzu had the 30th best defense in 2017 and the 59th best defense in 2018 according to S&P+. Texas Tech ranked 66th defensively in 2008.
I, for one, loved watching Mississippi State’s defense thrive and crush its enemies in 2018. I also care more about winning than I do about any one particular side of the ball having a ton of success. (That theoretically includes offense and special teams if there’s ever a point in Mississippi State’s future when these sides of the ball don’t necessarily have a significant impact on MSU’s chances of winning).
But I don’t think having a great defense is necessary for MSU to win moving forward.
Let’s all just say to hell with trying to have the best defense in the country. Let’s just enjoy watching Mississippi State’s offense race up and down the field. Let’s just look forward to basketball on grass and a bunch of track meets. Because, honestly, if it works and State wins more often than it loses, that’s what matters.
If Mike Leach can successfully install his offense with K.J. Costello running the show, it likely won’t matter if Mississippi State’s defense struggles at any point, because the Bulldogs will still be capable of winning games without any sort of defensive success.
If Costello truly does pan out to be the best quarterback in the SEC as some are predicting him to be, then MSU shouldn’t need much of a defense to win.
The Bulldogs just need to have a defense that is just good enough.
There’s going to be groups of fans that will bemoan a lack of defense, but, honestly, just score more points.
People are going to bring up a tired, old adage that should be retired, saying “defense wins championships” and in 2018, we saw a championship-caliber defense lead Mississippi State to eight wins (shoutout to Joe Moorhead for having a great defense and not winning a championship #ChampionshipStandard).
Mississippi State doesn’t need a top-notch defense to thrive with Leach leading things. If the Bulldogs can piece together a top-30 to top-40 sort of defense and have the offense we’re expecting them to have, there’s a really good chance that this team could win a lot of games.
It should also be noted that there’s a possibility Mississippi State has a good defense, if the Bulldogs can get the personnel to match the new scheme.
At the end of the day, who cares about defense? Just score more points than your opponent by the time the clock expires. I truly, at this point, do not believe that it matters how that is achieved. If it’s by a margin of 6-3 or a margin of 55-48. Just. Score. More. Points. Than. Your. Opponent.
And I don’t think Mississippi State needs much more than a defense that can occasionally get a stop to do that once Mike Leach’s offense is fully installed.
Of course, there’s the issue of what happens if Mike Leach’s offense doesn’t live up to expectations, but that’s a possible problem for possible future Ethan Lee to write about and possible future John Cohen to figure out.
For now, Mississippi State fans need to adjust to the possibility of having a Mississippi State team that isn’t particularly good on defense.