Mississippi State football coach Mike Leach and quarterback Will Rogers shake hands prior to Bulldogs' game against Memphis Tigers at Davis Wade Stadium at Scott Field.Mississippi State Bulldogs

Mississippi State football vs. Arizona Wildcats preview: Mike Leach, Bulldogs head west

After a solid win in week 1, Mike Leach and the Mississippi State football team will be headed out west for their first road trip of the season. The Bulldogs are traveling quite the distance for this week’s contest as they will be going all the way to Tucson, Arizona for their matchup with Jedd Fisch and the Arizona Wildcats.

Arizona wasn’t much of a foe last season as they were only able to get a single win during the 2021 campaign. However, year two might be a little different and the Wildcats were able to grab some interesting and talented additions through the transfer portal.

How will they look this season? Can the Bulldogs get an easy win on the road? Will the Wildcats put up an interesting challenge for Leach and company?

This is a section from Mississippi State football vs. Arizona preview: Everything you need for Bulldogs vs. Wildcats. To view the full preview, click here.

Table of contents:

Mississippi State football: 3 Arizona Wildcats to watch

  • Jayden De Laura – Arizona’s quarterback is off to a hot start this season. The former Washington State Cougar is now looking to do some damage for the Wildcats and he’s very clearly someone the Mississippi State Bulldogs will want to account for this week. Last week on the road against San Diego State, De Laura completed 62.9% of his passes for 299 yards and 4 touchdowns against 1 interception. That’s pretty good. Here’s to hoping that Zach Arnett and company have an answer for him this week.
  • DJ Williams – Like De Laura, DJ Williams came to Arizona via a transfer and he’s been pretty good with the Wildcats so far. Formerly a member of the Florida State Seminoles, Williams ran for 88 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries (6.3 yards per carry) last week against San Diego State. Williams has talent and provides some nice balance to Arizona’s offense.
  • Jacob Cowing – Oh, hey, another transfer for Arizona that managed to do some impressive damage to San Diego State’s defense. Meet Jacob Cowing, formerly a member of the University of Texas – El Paso Miners. Cowing couldn’t stop catching passes last week as he totaled 8 receptions for 152 yards and 3 touchdowns. The Bulldogs can’t afford to look past Cowing this week. Unless they’d like to have touchdowns scored on them, that is. Nobody wants touchdowns scored on them, though. So, expect Cowing to get plenty of attention this week.

Mississippi State football vs. Arizona Wildcats: 3 storylines to watch

How far has Arizona come under Jedd Fisch?

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If you’ve kept up with college football much over the past few seasons, you’re probably familiar with the fact that Arizona hasn’t been all that successful in recent seasons. That’s why the folks out in Tucson decided to turn to Jedd Fisch to try and get things turned around.

How has that worked so far? Well, they went 1-11 last year. But that might be a “year 0” situation where the program is working on a complete and total reset. We’re familiar with those.

So, how good will Fisch and the Wildcats be this season? Arizona landed a pretty talented quarterback in Jayden De Laura. Like Mississippi State’s head coach, De Laura left Washington State for a potentially better opportunity than what he had in the Pacific Northwest. This game is a great opportunity for Mississippi State to prove how far it’s come under Mike Leach’s guidance. It’s also a great test for Fisch and his developing program.

Mike Leach (and his offense) will be back in Tucson for the first time in a few years

During his time with the Washington State Cougars, Mike Leach’s offense found plenty of success whenever he had the opportunity to meet up with the Wildcats. During his games against Arizona, Leach’s offense averaged 46.8 points.

In Tucson, Washington State was able to average 35.3 points per game under Leach’s leadership.

Now with the Mississippi State Bulldogs and with the Air Raid clicking pretty effectively, it’ll be interesting to see just how well Leach’s offense works out in the desert this time around. Can the Bulldogs tally 69 points like Leach’s squads did in 2016 and 2018 in Pullman, Washington? Or will the offense be slowed a bit on the road like during some of Washington State’s games in Tucson?

How will Mississippi State perform on the road in a late night game?

Another week of the 2022 season and another game where the Bulldogs will be up late. Last week was caused by a lovely, horrendous weather delay and some impressive rain moving through Starkville. This week is because the Pac-12 apparently loves scheduling games when we should all be getting ready to get some sleep.

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So, how will the Bulldogs do this week?

This is the first road trip of the season and it’s honestly a pretty solid place to get tested this year. Arizona is working on rebuilding and Jedd Fisch seems to have some momentum. Arizona should be a fairly beatable opponent, but they’re likely not the same pushover they were a year ago. Let’s see how the Air Raid works late at night out west.

Mississippi State football vs. Arizona Wildcats history

These two teams have yet to meet. There’s no history here between these two programs. Literally nothing has happened (on the football field) between these two schools.

HOWEVER.

There is a little history involving the Wildcats and MSU’s head coach.

Mike Leach’s history vs. Arizona Wildcats

Mississippi State football team prepares to enter Davis Wade Stadium at Scott Field as the Bulldogs get set to host the Memphis Tigers.
Mississippi State football team prepares to enter Davis Wade Stadium at Scott Field as the Bulldogs get set to host the Memphis Tigers. Photo: Kevin Snyder/Mississippi State Athletics.

Throughout his pretty lengthy coaching career, Leach has actually had a few opportunities to take on the Wildcats, and that shouldn’t be all that surprising for folks who are familiar with him. In case you aren’t, let’s get you up to speed on Leach’s experience coaching against Arizona.

Prior to coaching in Starkville and the SEC, Leach was charged with leading the Washington State Cougars. And, for the most part, Wazzu was solidly successful thanks to Leach’s leadership from 2012 to 2019. That includes the Cougars’ meeting with the Wildcats. Washington State wasn’t perfect against Arizona, but they won more times than not. The two teams faced each other in every season from 2013 through to 2018 for a total of 6 meetings. Washington State took four of those contests, 2013, 2015, 2016, and 2018.

In Washington State’s wins, the Cougars came out on top with an average score of 51.75 to 23.5. In the two losses that Leach suffered, Washington State fell by an average score of 58.5 to 37.

Some of these contests weren’t all that close, to be completely honest.

MSU’s defense is a good bit better than most what Leach had to work with while at Washington State and the Bulldogs’ offense sure seems to be clicking now. It’s also worth noting that Arizona is working on a pretty tough rebuilding project.

Oh, and Leach went 2-1 in Tucson while he was with Wazzu.

For more independent Mississippi State news and commentary, follow The Underdog Tribune on Facebook and Twitter. Follow Ethan Lee on Facebook and Twitter.

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