Dan Mullen came to Mississippi State with a reputation of being one of the most innovative minds in the college football world when it came to designing and operating offenses. How have his offense developed in Starkville as his career has developed? Well, let's go through some numbers and take a look.
First, let's look over some yard totals that his offense has put up. These are the cumulative yards gained by rushing, passing, and then total yards combined.
As you can see above, there's an overall upward trend in total offensive yards despite some declines in 2011 and 2015.
Now, let's look at how the touchdowns are being scored by Dan Mullen's teams.
Again, despite a noticeable decline in 2011 and a very slight decline from an incredible total in 2014 to 2015, the trend as a whole is upward.
"Those are a couple of cool charts, Ethan, but what do they mean?"
Well, I'm glad you asked. Here's my biggest takeaways from this information:
We've seen more productive passing attacks develop in more recent years.
The past four seasons have featured years where Mississippi State has accumulated more than 3000 yards passing on the season and a total of 110 touchdowns. Passing yards and touchdowns were the primary reason for any offensive success in 2012 and 2015, simply due to the relative absence of a running game.
So, while it's more than likely that our offense will take a pretty big hit with the losses of guys like Dak Prescott, De'Runnya Wilson, and Gus Walley, it still wouldn't surprise me if Mississippi State totaled over 3000 passing yards and 25 passing touchdowns.
These would be a bit below the averages for the past four years, but it would still be somewhere near on target for what this trend is showing. Tyler Russell and Chris Relf's 2010 team gained over 2700 yards through the air. The trio of Russell, Dak, and Williams went over 3000 in 2013 despite an odd quarterback rotation and a plague of injuries. It's not improbable to think that this year's group could get there.
When our team is most balanced, we have the most success.
Except 2011. That year was practically equal in terms of output from a passing and a rushing standpoint. But there is something to be said about the importance of a balanced offense. 2009 would've been much more successful had a passing game developed alongside that rushing attack that generated over 2/3 of the total touchdowns that year. A stronger passing attack would've been beneficial in 2010 as well.
But, we've also lamented the loss of a running game, both in 2012 and in 2015. Both of these years, we saw experienced and talented quarterbacks struggle against tough competition late in the season because of the pressure caused by defenses that didn't have to worry about a running game. They were able to pin their ears back and tee off on the quarterback. Had there been a better, more balanced attack these years, our offense could have been more successful in both instances.
And finally, whoever is our next quarterback won't need to be Dak Prescott.
But he will likely need a strong running game behind him to support him. In 2015, we saw the running game reach its lowest rushing yardage total that it ever has under Dan Mullen. We were able to overcome that thanks to Dak, Fred Ross, and De'Runnya Wilson. Only one of those guys is back on campus next year.
2012 and 2014 were the only other seasons where passing the ball accounted for more touchdowns than running the ball did. 2014 is widely regarded as the best offense in school history and 2012, though it had its struggles, featured one of the more impressive passing attacks in school history. If Mississippi State is to have a successful offense this upcoming season, it's imperative that Dan Mullen finds a running back or two to help his quarterback out.