2018 Mississippi State Bulldogs Season Win Total Picks and Predictions for NCAA Football
2017 Record: 9-4
2018 Las Vegas Season Win Total: 8.5
2018 Season Win Total Picks NCAA Football: 'Over'
Former Penn State offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead is in an intriguing situation as he takes over in Starkville. This is Moorhead's first head coaching job at the FBS level. And while most new coaches have some leeway as they ease into stewardship of a new program, Moorhead takes over a talented, experienced Mississippi State team that is poised as a potential sleeper in the SEC West. Expectations are high. And Moorhead's learning curve will be sharp.
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Moorhead has plenty of talent to work with. But he will actually be changing systems on both sides of the ball. Offensively he will institute a more aggressive downfield passing attack as well as more run-pass options. He will have an all-SEC quarterback to work with in four-year starter Nick Fitzgerald. But he's also tinkering with an offense that's averaged more than 30 points per game over the last four years.
On the other side of the ball the Bulldogs with be shifting from a 3-4 to a 4-3 defense. New coordinator Bob Shoop is an SEC veteran. But the last two years his defenses at Tennessee have been some of the worst in the conference, especially last year.
Mississippi Sate has 14 of their top 17 tacklers back from last year. And they have two first team all-SEC beasts along the line in Montez Sweat and Jeff Simmons. Throw in a veteran secondary and the Bulldogs have eight starters back from a defense that was No. 10 in the country in yards allowed last year and No. 12 against the pass.
The Bulldogs were the No. 11 rushing team in the country last year and they welcome back their top five running backs along with four starters along the offensive line. If the passing game picks up with Fitzgerald and an upperclassmen-laden receiving corps then this team will be in business.
The Bulldogs have a brutal road schedule this year. Their biggest nonconference game is a trip to Manhattan to tangle with Kansas State on Sept. 8. They also have to play on the road at LSU, at Alabama and in Oxford for their rivalry game with Ole Miss. There are no easy games in the SEC West. So home tilts with Auburn, A&M and Arkansas are manageable but by no means a given.
Mississippi State clawed its way into the second tier of the SEC under Dan Mullen by winning the games it should. However, they are just 2-11 straight up in their last 13 games against ranked teams. And over the last five years they are just 5-16 SU in those games. They have four potential games against ranked teams this year - Florida, Auburn, LSU and Alabama. If they win one of the four, which is on average for them, then they should be able to beat this number.
I'm not completely buying into the Bulldogs hype. The preseason polls suggest they are the fourth-best team in the SEC. I don't think that will hold. But I am going to choose to be a bit optimistic with this veteran group, and I'll play them 'over'.
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