We’re just a days away from the start of the 2021 college baseball season as teams set their rosters to get ready for February 19th. After COVID-19 cut the season short in 2020, a lot of people are looking forward to this year more than any other. Florida comes in as the number one team in 2021 followed by UCLA and Texas Tech (according to D1Baseball). On Saturday, the State Farm College Baseball Classic will commence and it features six top-ranked teams facing each other in Arlington, Texas. This makes for a great way to start the 2021 season as this might be the most anticipated year we’ve seen in a while.
State Farm College Baseball Classic Preview
#7 Mississippi State vs #9 Texas
At the end of 2020, Mississippi State was ranked number 17 in the country with a 12-4 record. Coming into this season, they make a jump 10 spots to number seven and there’s a multitude of reasons why. Mississippi State will be returning a big part of their nucleus with outfielders Tanner Allen and Rowdy Jordan. With these two returning and more, this offense will have the firepower to contend but what might be even more impressive is the pitching staff. They’re led by one of the best pitchers in all of college baseball with Christain MacLeod, who sported a 4-0 record with a .86 ERA and 35 strikeouts in 2020. Mississippi State has power pitchers behind MacLeod that make this team dangerous.
Texas will make it interesting with their one-two punch the begin the State Farm College Baseball Classic. Ty Madden was having a great season before the 2020 season was cut short as he won three games and had a 1.80 ERA with 26 strikeouts. He’s projected to go fast and early in the MLB Draft. It doesn’t get any easier as behind him is Pete Hansen, who has shown some great flashes last season as he was third on the team in wins and strikeouts. The Longhorns offense has struggled over the years but the team liked the strides this team has taken last year, which will set them up for a run in the postseason.
#6 Ole Miss vs #10 TCU
Ole Miss was ranked number six coming into 2021 for good reason. They finished as the number eight team in 2020 after going 16-1 and certainly have the team to contend year in and year out. There are so many names up and down this lineup that have the power and speed to make this team elite. The Rebels play great defense all around the diamond and have one of the best rotations in the country.
They also have one of the best one-two combos in the country with Doug Nikhazy and Gunnar Hoglund. Both have three wins and over 30 strikeouts with Nikhazy having a 2.35 ERA and Hogland having a 1.16 ERA in 2020. Both have great stuff and a multitude of pitches to rely on. The overall talent on this team is elite and will be a tough out down the road.
Ole Miss will be going against one of the most experienced teams on the Diamond with TCU returning a plethora of talent. On offense, they’ll be returning their top three hitters, which includes Gray Rodgers, Gene Wood, and Hunter Wolfe. All three of those players hit well over .300 in 2020 and were tops in home runs and stolen bases. It doesn’t stop there as the list of experienced players goe on. As for the pitching, TCU has a few good options to turn to when needed. They certainly have a few top options but one guy they’re excited about is Austin Krob, who made seven appearances in relief while giving up no runs and 15 strikeouts.
Despite the returning talent for TCU, they don’t want to get complacent and too comfortable with themselves, as head coach Jim Schlossnagle alluded to coming into the season. Ole Miss is going to bring firepower this weekend so it’ll be interesting to see how TCU responds to it.
#8 Arkansas vs #3 Texas Tech
Arkansas is projected to be a top-three team in the SEC. Even with a couple of pieces missing from their pitching staff, that’s their deepest position on the team and one of the deepest in the country. Arkansas has some good offensive talent coming back and their preseason All-SEC catcher Casey Opitz. He hit over .300 in 2020 and is one of the best if not the best defensive catcher in all of college baseball. The Razorback’s defense all over the diamond with be exceptional. That helps the pitching staff, who’s still trying to figure out their rotation order.
Texas Tech’s pitching can rival Arkansas’ and might be even better. They have name after name with experience and talent that can anchor this rotation like Mason Montgomery and Hunter Dobbins to name a few. The Red Raiders also have a few great relievers from 2020 that can settle into a spot in the starting rotation.
They also feel good about the offense, even though it may take a little time to figure out what they have in this lineup as a couple of key pieces had to be replaced. It may only take a few games for everyone to realize that this lineup still has power and versatility throughout. The mix of great pitching with power in the bats will create a recipe for a College World Series run.
Rest Of The State Farm College Baseball Classic
Sunday: TCU vs Mississippi State, Texas Tech vs Ole Miss, Texas vs Arkansas
Monday: Mississippi State vs Texas Tech, Ole Miss vs Texas, Arkansas vs TCU