Today we look at No. 18 – Mississippi State.
Top 25 to date
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Nuts and bolts
Location: Starkville, Mississippi
Coach: Joe Moorhead (first season at MSU; 38-13 overall at Fordham)
2017: 9-4, 4-4 SEC (beat Louisville 31-27 in Taxslayer Bowl)
Last league title: 1941
Three things to know
1. New coach. Dan Mullen built Mississippi State into a perennial threat in nine seasons, going to eight bowl games. Now it’s up to Joe Moorhead, the former Fordham head coach who most recently served as Penn State’s offensive coordinator, to carry the program forward.
Mullen didn’t leave the cupboard bare, either. Moorhead inherits a talented roster, headlined by quarterback Nick Fitzgerald and defensive lineman Jeffrey Simmons.
2. The new Dak. Dak Prescott earned rock star status during his college career. He put Mississippi State on the map, and has taken his game to the next level as star quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys.
Fitzgerald has some Prescott-esque qualities to his game. They are the only two quarterbacks in school history to rush for 25 touchdowns and throw for 25 touchdowns.
Much like with Prescott, Mississippi State will go as far as Fitzgerald – who is healthy again after a gruesome ankle injury late last season – can take it.
3. D matters. Bob Shoop enters as defensive coordinator and takes over a group with eight returning starters.
The pass rush should fare OK behind Montez Sweat, who is back for his senior season after registering double-digit sacks as a junior, and versatile D-lineman Jeffrey Simmons.
The Bulldogs’ top tacklers return from last season too – safeties Mark McLaurin and Johnathan Abram.
Three games to watch
1. Sept. 8 at Kansas State. The biggest non-conference game for Mississippi State will provide a stiff test. It’s never easy to beat Bill Snyder in Manhattan, Kansas.
2. Sept. 29 vs. Florida. Dan Mullen returns to Starkville, but his Gators have a lot less talent than he left the Bulldogs with.
3. Nov. 10 at Alabama. Can the Bulldogs pull off a November upset against one of the top teams in the country?