WMD's Liberty Bowl Preview: Offense

Stacy Revere

Comparing the MSU and Rice Offenses

Greetings, peeps! Hope each of you had a very merry Christmas! We're officially a week away from the Liberty Bowl. That means it's time for us to refocus on football. We'll start by comparing the Dawgs' offense versus the Owls' offense. Let's get started.

The Types:

MSU: As we all know, MSU is a Spread Option offense with an emphasis on the run. We tend to be a one back team who uses a TE and/or H-Back instead of a FB to block, and a lot of 3-4 WR sets. We occasionally use tempo, but most of the time we prefer to huddle.

Rice: The Owls are similar to MSU in that they are a run-heavy Spread Option offense. They also prefer the TE/H-back & WRs combo to the use of a FB. The difference is that Rice is a no huddle team. However, they aren't really a "tempo" offense as they like to chew up the play clock before snapping the ball. Stat of note: Rice was 7th nationally in Time of Possession this season.

The Stats:

Rushing:

MSU: The Dawgs finished the regular season ranked 45th nationally in rushing yards. We had 2,230 rushing yards on the season and averaged 185.8 YPG and 4.6 YPC. We also managed 26 rush TDs.

Rice: The Owls were 16th nationally rushing the ball. They had 3,122 rush yards and averaged 240.2 YPG and 4.7 YPC. They cashed in 30 rush TDs.

Edge: Rice

Passing:

MSU: The Dawgs were 58th nationally passing the ball. We threw for 2,884 yards, averaging 240.3 YPG and 7.2 YPP. We had 15 passing TDs.

Rice: The Owls ended the year 101st nationally. They had 2,411 yards, averaging 185.5 YPG and 7.3 YPP. They had 20 passing scores.

Edge: MSU

Total Offense:

MSU: The Dawgs finished 48th overall in total offense. We averaged 426.2 YPG and 26.3 PPG.

Rice: The Owls finished just behind the Dawgs ranked 49th in total offense. They averaged 425.6 YPG and 31.4 PPG.

Edge: MSU, barely. I give us the nod here based on playing against SEC defenses, as the raw numbers are essentially a push.

Postion-by-Position:

QB:

MSU: The Dawgs will likely start redshirt sophomore Dak Prescott at QB. Dak took over as starter in the Alcorn State game after senior Tyler Russell suffered a concussion in the season opener. Under Dak, MSU had probably it's best offensive season under Dan Mullen, breaking into the top 50 nationally in total offense. Dak is the prototype dual threat QB that makes Mullen's spread offense click on all cylinders. He's solid as a passer, finishing the season with 1,657 yards and a 58.2% completion percentage. He tossed 7 of MSU's 15 passing TDs. But where Dak truly excelled was as a rusher. He finished the season leading the Dawgs in rush yards with 751. He averaged 75.1 YPG, 6.3 YPC and scored 11 rush TDs.

Should Dak be unable to go or get dinged up, MSU will turn to true freshman Damian Williams. Like Dak, Williams is a dual threat QB. Wiliams was solid in limited action this season and shows promise for the future. His game winning 25-yard TD run on the first play of OT at Arkansas will be remembered for a long time in MSU lore, and gave the Dawgs their first win in the state of Arkansas. As you'd expect from a true freshman, Williams is a work in progress, particularly passing. But MSU fans would be comfortable having him in the game, should it become necessary.

Rice: The Owls will counter Dak with Taylor McHargue. McHargue is a run-first QB. He's accounted for 466 rush yards, averaging 35.8 YPG and 3.1 YPC. He's also scored 5 rush TDs. As a passer, McHargue could probably be described as shaky, but can occasionally hit the big play downfield off the play-action. He's only completing 52.1% of his passes, but has thrown for 2,261 yards and 17 TDs. He averages 173.9 YPG through the air.

The Dawgs are also likely to see some of the Wild Owl with Luke Turner at QB in this package. Turner has rushed for 147 yards this season, averaging 4.2 YPC. He's scored twice on the ground. Turner has passed just 4 times, but connected on 3 for 100 yards and 3 TDs.

Edge: MSU. Dak's greater efficiency passing and the clutch play of Williams ultimately tips the scale here.

RB:

MSU: The Dawgs will continue to use multiple RBs. LaDarius Perkins will get the bulk of the carries. Perk has rushed for 495 yards on the season, averaging 45 YPG but only 4 YPC and 2 rushing TDs. Perk was also effective as a receiver out of the backfield. He has 238 receiving yards this season, averaging 21.6 YPG. He's also caught 2 TD passes.

Josh Robinson will also see some work in the Bulldog backfield, usually getting around 6-8 rushing touches per game. J-Rob has been very effective with the limited touches, though. He's rushed for 414 yards this season, averaging 34.5 YPG and 5.5 YPC. He's also scored 3 rush TDs. As a receiver, J-Rob has been good with very limited chances. He's only caught 11 passes, but turned that into 112 receiving yards.

Rice: Similarly, the Owls will use multiple backs. Their group will be led by Charles Ross. Ross has been extremely good this season, eclipsing the 1,000 yard mark with 1, 292 yards rushing. He's averaging 113.8 YPG and 6.2 YPC. Ross has punched in 14 rushing TDs. He's essentially been a non-factor in the passing game.

Rice will also use Jowan Davis and Jarik Dillard. They've rushed for 455 and 396 yards, respectively. They've combined for 6 rush TDs.

Edge: Rice. They've got a guy knocking on the door of 1,300 rush yards, and their next 2 leading rushers (Davis, Dillard) have combined for 851 rushing yards. Hard to look at the production at this position and not give Rice the nod.

WR:

MSU: The Dawgs WR corps this year has been young and inexperienced. But the progress we've seen over the course of the season has been outstanding. Jameon "Tubby" Lewis has emerged as one of the top multi-purpose WRs in the SEC, accounting for 703 receiving yards, 5 receiving TDs, 117 rushing yards, 3 rushing TDs, 84 passing yards, and 3 passing TDs. He's hit the hat trick twice this season, passing, catching, and rushing for a TD in the same game.

Robert Johnson has developed into a solid possession WR for the Dawgs and has shown some impressive physicality after making the catch. But the guy that might have Dawg fans most excited is De'Runnya "Bear" Wilson. A true freshman in only his second year ever of football, Bear has made some big catches down the stretch. At 6'5", he's still learning how to use his size, but has shown a serious willingness to go up and fight for the football.

Rice: Jordan Taylor, Dennis Parks, and Turner Petersen lead the Owls receiving corps this year. The Owls haven't thrown much, but their WRs have made the most of their opportunities. The "big 3" have combined for 1,664 receiving yards and 15 TDs. We'll also see Petersen get some rushing touches, as he has 262 rushing yards on the season.

Edge: MSU. The Dawgs have the better pass offense and the young Bulldog WRs have come on strong late this season. Tubby Lewis can do it all and is a true big play threat.

TE:

MSU: State will use 3-4 TEs during the course of the game. Malcolm Johnson will see a majority of the snaps. He's a hybrid WR/TE that is most effective as a receiver. To his credit, he's improved his blocking, although I still wouldn't say he's a good blocker. Brandon Hill saw a lot of playing time early, but injuries slowed him down. He's a solid blocker and receiver. True freshman Artimas Samuel had his redshirt pulled around midseason and has been productive for the Dawgs. He's a big body and already a good blocker. He's also made a couple nice grabs in limited chances. State fans are excited about his future.

Rice: Most of the Rice TEs are very young, being RS freshmen. They're mostly used as blockers for the Owls ground game. The only one worth noting as a receiving threat is Connor Cella.

Edge: Push. MSU and Rice use the TEs differently. The Owl TEs are the better blockers in the run game, but the Dawg TEs are a bigger threat receiving. If I had to pick, I'd take MSU based on their greater experience.

OL:

MSU: The Dawgs offensive line was a very effective unit this season, despite a season ending injury to RG Justin Malone in the season opener. Gabe Jackson is possibly the best G in the country, a consensus All-American. Blaine Clausell and Dillon Day are 3-year starters. Ben Beckwith and Jamaal Clayborn have combined to fill the void left by Malone. The line is rounded out by Charles Siddoway. The Dawgs have been middle of the road in pass protection, allowing 22 sacks on the season, tied for 51st nationally.

Rice: The Owls starting 5 consists of Jon Hodde, Caleb Williams, Nico Carlson, Andrew Reue, and Nate Richards. This is a young group, with 2 RS FR in Reue & Williams and a RS SO in Carlson. They've clearly excelled at run blocking, considering Rice is 16th nationally rushing. But they've been bad at pass blocking. They have allowed 33 sacks, 97th nationally.

Edge: MSU. The Dawgs are better in pass protection and have much more experience up front.

Special Teams:

FG:

MSU: The Dawgs have struggled kicking FGs this season. Devon Bell and Evan Sobiesk are a combined 9/20 for only 45% on the season. That is literally the worst in the nation.

Rice: Chris Boswell handles the kicking chores for the Owls. He's 14/21 for 66% on the season. But he's hit 13 from 50+, with a long of 57. That's nuts.

Edge: Rice. Frankly, it doesn't get any worse than MSU.

KR/PR:

MSU: Tubby Lewis handles the return duties for MSU. We are dead last in PR and 59th in KR.

Rice: The Owls are 77th in KR and 88th in PR.

Edge: Push. Both teams suck in the return game.

WMD's Thoughts: Rice has been an outstanding running team this season. I know they played CUSA defenses, but the rush numbers are crazy impressive. State is a more balanced team and has faced SEC defenses. In the clutch, I'd trust the Dawg OL & WRs to come up with the plays needed to mount a game winning drive. If it comes down to FGs, I'm taking Rice. Bottom line, these two offenses, may "look" similar, but they're very different animals.

Overall Edge: MSU. I'll take the Dawgs, as they've been battle tested by SEC defenses. QB is the most important position on the field, and Dak is among the best in the SEC at QB. Plus, the Dawg OL is experienced and nasty, with one of the best individual players in the nation.

That's how I see it. You know the drill. Fire away!

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