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Texas Longhorns vs. Mississippi State Bulldogs Week 5 Preview: Keys to the Game

When the Mississippi State Bulldogs arrive in Austin in late September, it will be a battle between two schools in completely different locations.

The Longhorns are on everyone's lips in college football. They will participate in the College Football Playoffs for the first time in 2023 and will move to a new home, the SEC, in 2024. The Longhorns want to become an elite team again and will start with their first conference game against the Bulldogs in Austin.

Mississippi State, on the other hand, is on a completely different end of the spectrum. A team with just one double-digit win this millennium, the Bulldogs are stuck in power conference purgatory. The Bulldogs are entering a new era under new head coach Jeff Lebby and are looking to start their 2024 SEC schedule with a bang.

The Bulldogs will simply be competing for a bowl game in 2024. The schedule includes SEC games against Florida, Texas, Georgia, Texas A&M, Tennessee, Ole Miss and Missouri. The Bulldogs need an upset to even have a hope of reaching the six-win mark, which normally means a bowl game appearance.

The Bulldogs won't be favorites in Week 5 in Austin, but it's a no-brainer for Texas. Here are the keys to the game for Texas and Mississippi State.

Readers of the American-Statesman commented on the salary increase for Texas Longhorns head coach Steve Sarkisian. (Source:

American-Statesman readers had a lot to say about the raise for Texas Longhorns head coach Steve Sarkisian. (Source: Aaron E. Martinez/American-Statesman) / Aaron E. Martinez / USA TODAY NETWORK

Texas wins if …

… they are who we think they are.

Quite simply, this Texas team is much better than Mississippi State. Head coach Steve Sarkisian is entering his fourth year with the program and the Longhorns have top-10 recruits at every position. According to a recent NFL mock draft by ESPN's Matt Miller, three Longhorns are in the first round of the 2025 NFL Draft and quarterback Quinn Ewers will likely be in the running for the Heisman Trophy.

If Texas is the caliber that the fans, media and team expect of them, it should be a breeze against the Bulldogs. Texas has a home crowd and is coming off a game against ULM, while Mississippi State was hoping to get through a week four game against Florida. Texas should come away with a clean, easy win against the ragtag Bulldogs team in 2024, but anything can happen.

Mississippi State wins if…

… their offensive reaches a new level.

The win condition for this new Mississippi State team is also quite simple. Let their new offensive guru of a coach make strong plays and hope the talent is there to back them up. Mississippi State shouldn't worry too much about talent, at least not at the receiving end.

While it's not at the level of the Longhorns, Mississippi State has still reshuffled the group that's supposed to catch passes from transfer QB Blake Shapen. Four transfers were rated as either three- or five-star transfer acquisitions, and the team still has its two 2023 four-star receivers on the roster. Combine that with a veteran quarterback, and it's a recipe for success.

However, that theory isn't entirely accurate when you look at who they're up against. There's a chance the Bulldogs' defense will be better than their offense in 2024, but there are two main competitors trying to stop their success. First, despite their weak defense, Texas' offense is still capable of scoring 50 or more points against mediocre defenses, and the Bulldogs would have to prepare for a shootout if all goes well.

Second, Darrel K Royal Memorial Stadium. It's going to be loud, especially considering this is the first SEC matchup in school history. Shapen and Lebby will have to be at their best when it comes to communication, and Mississippi State's new offensive line will have to hold its own against a crowd as crazy as the 100,000-plus in Austin.

The Bulldogs are by no means among the favorites, but it could be an exciting game if Shapen, Lebby and the receivers can outperform the Texas defense.