2019 Mississippi State Bulldogs Football Predictions and Odds to Win National Championship
I have pet peeve when it comes to college football coaches, and Mississippi State's Joe Moorhead, who I quite respect, has become guilty of it this offseason. Luke Getsy was his offensive coordinator last year, but he left this year to take the position of QB coach for the Green Bay Packers. So, Moorhead, a decorated offensive coordinator at Penn State and elsewhere, has chosen not to name a coordinator. He will call plays and run the show on offense. It drives me crazy when coaches do that. By making themselves a coordinator, they ensure that neither the coordinator nor head coach job - both much more than full-time jobs - are done well enough. It's crazy - either egotistical delusion or just poor judgement. Moorhead had a solid first season, but for a school like this to shine they need all the heal they can get to overcome their disadvantages, and this just won't help.
2018 in a Nutshell
They jumped out of the gate in the Moorhead era with three very easy wins over Stephen F. Austin, Kansas State, and Louisiana. But the schedule inevitably got harder, and their results suffered. Over their next four they lost at Kentucky and at home to Florida, beat Auburn for a nice win, but then lost at LSU. They beat up Texas A&M to prove again that they don't just beat bad teams, then beat Louisiana Tech badly before, not surprisingly, getting shut out at Alabama. They closed out by emphatically winning easy conference games against Arkansas and at Ole Miss. The 8-4 mark and 4-4 conference record earned them a spot in the Outback Bowl against a pretty good Iowa team. Though Moorhead was familiar with that squad from his time at Penn State, his team couldn't pull off the win.
Key Additions and Departures
The team had five players drafted this year, including an impressive three in the first round. The first two off the board came off the defensive line, which is obviously a big hit - DT Jeffrey Simmons went 19th, while DE Montez Sweat went 26th. Safety Johnathan Abram went one pick after Sweat, while corner Elgton Jenkins went in the middle of the second round, and LB Gerri Green went in the sixth. Having five guys drafted out of the same defense in the same year is not great - especially when that defense ranked first nationally in total yards and second in scoring. They lost another starting safety as well. But the issues aren't as big as you might think. The team has very solid depth and has good answers for pretty much every player that is gone. There could be a transition period, but the schedule allows for that. The defense might not be quite as gaudy as it was last year, but it will still be a major strength. A guy who is getting a whole lot of buzz, and could be in play to eat up a lot of the minutes Simmons played, is redshirt freshman Fabien Lovett. He was only a three-star recruit last year, but I keep seeing his name wherever I look when it comes to this team.
On offense, the biggest challenge will be to replace QB Nick Fitzgerald. It's a wide-open race of this writing. Keytaon Thompson has the edge of having been Fitzgerald's backup, and he is a very dangerous runner, but his accuracy has been suspect. Redshirt freshman Jalen Mayden, and true freshman Garrett Shrader, the seventh-ranked dual-threat QB nationally, will both be in the mix to the end as well. The offensive line loses two starters, but lots of depth means that it should be solid again. Fitzgerald was, by a wide margin, the leading rusher, so his productivity will have to be picked up in the run game. And third-leading rusher Aeris Williams is back. But lead back Kylin Hill is back, there is depth behind him, and Thompson was very dangerous in limited exposure last year, averaging an impressive 9.4 yards per carry.
The recruiting class was solid, ranking 24th nationally - though that is good for just 11th in the ridiculously competitive SEC. They had one five-star recruit, OT Charles Cross, though given his position and their depth, a redshirt is a decent bet.
Biggest Area of Concern
When an offense loses a QB without an obvious replacement, it's always a concern. On top of it all here, though, the defense will be solid but can't be quite as good as it was after losing so much talent - at least not consistently. That puts more pressure on the QB, and that probably isn't a great thing.
Mississippi State Bulldogs Schedule Analysis
For a team facing a lot of changes, the schedule starts out pretty much ideally with pretty much a very extended preseason - Louisiana in New Orleans, and Southern Miss, Kansas State and Kentucky at home represents a pretty winnable stretch of games. Then they head to Auburn and Tennessee, two conference foes with all sorts of questions. In a perfect world they would have at least five wins through the first half - a record they wouldn't expect to match in the second half. They start the back end hosting LSU, travel to Texas A&M and Arkansas - one game decidedly easier than the other, then lose at home to Alabama before getting relief in the form of Abilene Christian and Ole Miss. There are three games they probably aren't winning, but the other nine are very much in play, and they should be favored in at least eight of them.
2019-20 Mississippi State Bulldogs Betting Odds and Trends
Bovada has Mississippi State at +12500 to win the national title, which has them behind 19 other teams and tied with Florida State. It feels like an overly optimistic place for either team to be, but I'd bet the Bulldogs over the Seminoles in a heartbeat if I had to right now. At +3500, they are the eighth choice to win the SEC, just behind Kentucky and miles ahead of South Carolina at +6600.
2019-20 Mississippi State Bulldogs Predictions and College Football Picks
The range feels like between seven and nine regular-season wins. I don't see them exceeding that, but they'd really have to go wrong to go lower. If I had to set a total it would be 7.5, and I'd lean to the "over".
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