Every game matters in college football, but there is something about the month of November that takes each game to a whole different level – the epic final quarter of the season.
Each game up to this point – whether a win or loss – has prepared each team to sink or swim against adversity, and to fight for spots in conference championship games or bowl games in the months of December and January.
For Mississippi State, just when it looked as if it was headed to a dark, sunken place for the remainder of the 2018 season, the Bulldogs surprised many last week, having defeated SEC West opponent Texas A&M 28-18 in a convincing manner.
The Bulldogs made a statement with a win over the Aggies that they will continue to play hard each week until the season is done. And while hopes and chances for competing for a spot in the 2018 SEC Championship game are done, the Bulldogs still have a lot to play for over the next four weeks.
With matchups against Alabama on the road next week, a home game against Arkansas, and the Egg Bowl on the road against Ole Miss on Thanksgiving Day, Mississippi State (5-3, 2-3) can send a huge message over the next couple of weeks that it is a true, legitimate contender in the tough SEC West.
The tough November journey for Bulldogs start Saturday evening when Mississippi State hosts a dangerous Louisiana Tech team that will look to give them fits and get an upset at Davis-Wade Stadium.
The two teams are no stranger to each other. A year ago, Mississippi State defeated La. Tech 57-21 and Bulldogs quarterback Nick Fitzgerald finished 12-of-18 for 174 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. The senior quarterback also ran for two touchdowns in last year’s contest.
Bulldogs first-year head coach Joe Moorhead will look for his team to build on last year’s dominant performance by putting on another one under the bright lights Saturday evening.
Coming off the huge victory over Texas A&M and sitting at No. 18 in the first week of the College Football Playoff rankings, Mississippi State enters the game averaging 27.1 points per game (10th in the SEC), 403.5 total yards per game (8th in SEC), 223.5 rushing yards per game (26th in the nation and 1st in the SEC) and 180 passing yards (13th in the SEC).
Fitzgerald and company will look to get the Bulldogs ground game going early. However, the Richmond Hill, Georgia native has proven that he can make passes down the field when it matters the most like did against Texas A&M.
Fitzgerald recorded 329 yards of offense, throwing for 241 and two passing touchdowns and rushing for 88 yards on 16 carries for two touchdowns.
If the Bulldogs offensive line control the line of scrimmage and make way for Fitzgerald to make plays with arm and his legs, it could be a very long day for Louisiana Tech’s defense – one that gives up 348.1 to its opponents, with 192 in the passing game and 156 to opposing rushers on the ground. As a defensive unit, Louisiana Tech ranks fourth in Conference USA in scoring defense, giving up 22 points per game.
Nevertheless, Louisiana Tech (6-2, 4-1) will not be a pushover, having given LSU a very competitive game early in the season and snapping Florida Atlantic’s 10-game winning streak and becoming bowl eligible.
Louisiana Tech features some explosive weapons of its own on offense in quarterback J’Mar Smith and wide receivers Adrian Hardy and Teddy Veal.
Smith has thrown for 1,938 yards, 12 touchdowns and six interceptions. As an offensive unit, Louisiana Tech enters the game averaging 390.8 yards of total offense and 28 points per game.
Wide receivers Hardy and Veal have combined for almost 1,200 receiving yards this season. The two will look to make an impact in the game against a Mississippi State secondary that allows only 175.9 passing yards per game (15th in the nation).
For the Bulldogs from Ruston, Louisiana, it could be a very long day if Mississippi State is clicking on both sides of the ball.
Despite going 3-3 in their past six games, Mississippi State has the chance to earn another win over a solid Louisiana Tech team before they face three back-to-back SEC West opponents to finish the season.
The Bulldogs November journey begins now.
Kickoff is set for 6:30 p.m.