Joe Moorhead's hire as Mississippi State’s head coach was met with widespread support, and it helped bring calm to a fan base reeling from the departure of Dan Mullen, who left for Florida shortly after Thanksgiving.
Whether one agreed with Mullen's decision to leave or not, what can't be denied is his impact and the prominence he brought to the program during his nine years. Mullen's contributions ensured a stocked cupboard for Moorhead in Year 1.
Perhaps no game will draw as much attention as when Florida visits Mississippi State on Sept. 29, but games against Auburn, Texas A&M, Alabama and Ole Miss present a challenging but manageable 2018 schedule that includes seven home games.
Mississippi State Bulldogs 2018 Schedule
Bye: Week 6
Week 1 – Sept. 1 vs. Stephen F. Austin (Starkville, Miss.)
Moorhead and the Bulldogs welcome FCS member Stephen F. Austin to Starkville in the season opener. Mississippi State's last and only loss to an FCS program occurred in 2004, when Maine won 9-7. SFA head coach Clint Conque began his collegiate playing career at Southwest Mississippi Community College.
Week 2 – Sept. 8 at Kansas State (Manhattan, Kan.)
Mississippi State travels to Manhattan, Kansas, for the first time since 1977. Kansas State and Mississippi State have played two times previously, and the Bulldogs are 1-1 in those contests. Mississippi State won 21-16 in 1974 and 24-21 in ‘77, but forfeited the latter after having played an ineligible player that season. This also is Mississippi State's first contest against a fellow Power 5 school since 2013, when the Bulldogs lost to Oklahoma State in the Texas Kickoff.
Week 3 – Sept. 15 vs. Louisiana (Starkville, Miss.)
Mississippi State's matchup against Louisiana will present the Bulldogs a chance for a non-conference win before they embark on a five-game SEC tilt. They are 3-0 all-time against the Ragin' Cajuns.
Week 4 – Sept. 22 at Kentucky (Lexington, Ky.)
Mississippi State quarterback Nick Fitzgerald was a one-man wrecking crew as he gashed Kentucky's defense for 270 yards and three touchdowns in a 45-7 win last season, the second-largest margin of victory in series history. As a team, the Bulldogs rushed for 282 yards and four touchdowns.
Week 5 – Sept. 29 vs. Florida (Starkville, Miss.)
Mississippi State fans will forever have Nov. 26, 2017 etched in their minds, as it was the day Florida lured away Mullen. Bulldogs' fans don't have to wait long to give him a hearty welcome back to Starkville.
Week 6 – Oct. 6 vs. Auburn (Starkville, Miss.)
Mississippi State plays its first SEC West game at home against Auburn, where it hopes to avenge last year's 49-10 loss. The Bulldogs have lost their last two against the Tigers by a combined score of 87-24.
Week 8 – Oct. 20 at LSU (Baton Rouge, La.)
The Bulldogs travel to Baton Rouge after the bye to play the Tigers. Mississippi State routed LSU 37-7 last year to earn its first win in 17 years against the Tigers in Starkville. With that said, LSU won't need any additional motivation. For LSU, this game is sandwiched between Georgia and Alabama, which could pose trap game implications for the Tigers.
Week 9 – Oct. 27 vs. Texas A&M (Starkville, Miss.)
Jimbo Fisher makes his Davis-Wade Stadium debut in the middle of a three-week SEC road trip for Texas A&M. The Bulldogs defeated the Aggies 35-14 last season and have won three of the last four in the series.
Week 10 – Nov. 3 vs. Louisiana Tech (Starkville, Miss.)
Who can forget last year's infamous fumble that resulted in a third-and-93 for Louisiana Tech? Anyway, Louisiana Tech makes the trip to Starkville a week before Mississippi State plays Alabama.
Week 11 – Nov. 10 at Alabama (Tuscaloosa, Ala.)
Moorhead gets his formal introduction with Nick Saban in the form of a trip to Tuscaloosa where the Bulldogs will look for their first win against the Crimson Tide since 2007. Mississippi State led 21-17 heading into the fourth quarter, but the Crimson Tide outscored the Bulldogs 14-3 over the final 15 minutes to earn the win.
Week 12 – Nov. 17 vs. Arkansas (Starkville, Miss.)
Mississippi State escaped Arkansas when Nick Fitzgerald connected with Deddrick Thomas for the winning touchdown with 17 seconds left in the game. Arkansas will be led by first-year head coach Chad Morris.
Week 13 – Nov. 22 (Thursday) at Ole Miss (Oxford, Miss.)
The Egg Bowl needs no introduction, and Moorhead will get the full experience when he makes the trip to Oxford for the regular-season finale. Emotions will be amplified as Ole Miss earned a 31-28 upset win last year after Nick Fitzgerald left the game with an ankle injury.
— Written by Elton Hayes, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. A sports reporter for The Meridian Star, Hayes also has been an invited guest on “The Paul Finebaum Show.” Follow him on Twitter @EHDC12.