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2019 SEC Football Preview: Mississippi State Bulldogs

2019 SEC Football Preview: Mississippi State Bulldogs

2018 Recap

2019 SEC Football Preview: Mississippi State Bulldogs
2018 Schedule

2018 Record: 8-5 (4-4)

4th in the West

New head coach Joe Moorhead inherited a lot of talent in his first year at the helm in Starkville. Last season saw it’s fair share of ups and downs in what fell just short of a nine-win season.

Despite a hiccup against a good Kentucky team and falling short of a revenge game with former head coach Dan Mullen’s Gators, the season was full of highs and a fun one for the Bulldogs.

Big wins against then No.8 Auburn and again against then No.16 Texas A&M highlighted the season. The Bulldogs ended the season with a 35-3 thumping of in-state rival Ole Miss to bring the Egg Bowl back to Starkville.

2019 Schedule Breakdown

2019 SEC Football Preview: Mississippi State Bulldogs
2019 Schedule

Ceiling: 9-3 (5-3)

Floor: 5-7 (1-7)

2019 Projected Record: 7-5 (3-5)

Conference Standings: 4th in the West

  • Week 1 UL Lafayette*: W
  • Week 2 Southern Miss: W
  • Week 3 Kansas State: W
  • Week 4 Kentucky: W
  • Week 5 @ Auburn: L
  • BYE
  • Week 7 @ Tennessee: L
  • Week 8 LSU: L
  • Week 9 @ Texas A&M: L
  • Week 10 @ Arkansas: W
  • BYE
  • Week 12 Alabama: L
  • Week 13 Abilene Christian: W
  • Week 14 Ole Miss: W

* denotes neutral site game

Mississippi State’s out of conference schedule poses little challenges. Southern Miss is always a scare as an in-state opponent that would love to knock off an SEC team. Kansas State is not what they once were and should not be threatening next year.

2019 SEC Football Preview: Mississippi State Bulldogs
Ed Orgeron’s first trip to Starkville as LSU’s head coach saw a 37-7 thumping of his Tigers. (Photo courtesy of clarionledger.com).

The big questions will come in conference play where is the Bulldogs can flip some close ones they could be looking at a top 25 ranking at the end of the year.

October 19 against LSU is one to circle. Last year’s 19-3 loss failed to live up to the hype and the Bulldogs will be giving the Tigers a warm welcome back to Davis Wade after the last meeting in Starkville went 37-7 in favor of the Dawgs.

If Auburn is slipping early in the season that is another one Mississippi State could realistically win. And while it’s never easy playing at Neyland Stadium, the Bulldogs will be coming off a bye week going into the game against Tennessee.

Team Outlook

New Face at Quarterback

For the first time since 2015 and the years of Dak Prescott, the Bulldogs will see a new face behind center this year. Nick Fitzgerald’s career came to a close after three solid years commanding the offense. Replacing over 100 career touchdowns won’t be easy.

It’ll come down to junior Keytaon Thompson and senior transfer Tommy Stevens. Stevens, who is familiar with Moorehead from their time at Penn State, has slightly lesser quarterback experience than Thompson as he’s spent a good amount of time rushing and receiving.

Both are viable options and have the mobility to somewhat replicate what Fitzgerald was able to do with his legs over the last three years. The completion percentage for both quarterbacks remains concerning but both have shown flashes of being able to overcome that obstacle.

How Will the Defense Rebound

Mississippi State boasted arguably the best team defense a season ago. The Bulldogs allowed the least amount of yards per game as well as the least amount of offensive touchdowns of any team in the NCAA.

That defense which allowed the second least points per game returns just four starters as well. Not only that, but they’ll have four NFL draft picks to replace – including three taken in the First Round.

2019 SEC Football Preview: Mississippi State Bulldogs
Jeffery Simmons was the first of three Bulldog defensive players taken in the first round of the NFL Draft. (Photo courtesy of usatoday.com).

The defensive line will take the hardest hit after losing all four starters. Replacing Montez Sweat and Jeffery Simmons will be impossible. But they’ll have the senior leadership of Chauncey Rivers, Marquiss Spencer and Fletcher Adams to fill the void upfront.

The secondary is also going to need some players to step up after losing most of the key pieces from the historic 2018 defense. Junior Cam Dantzler will lead the way this year as he is a 2019 preseason All-American as well as a candidate for the Bednarik, Thorpe and Nagurski awards.

Recap

Joe Moorehead shouldn’t have too much trouble getting this team to bowl eligibility for the 10th consecutive season. Some swing games will determine just how prestigious of a bowl game that will end up being. This will be a fun team that can fight for a high finish in the SEC West.

 

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