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Mississippi State Football: Game-by-Game Predictions for 2018

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Mississippi State and new head coach Joe Moorhead enter the 2018 season with fanfare not seen in Starkville in decades. The annual Maroon-and-White game drew a record 36,789 fans to Davis Wade Stadium for the dress rehearsal, and in less than a month, fans will flock to Starkville for the Sept. 1 season opener against FCS opponent Stephen F. Austin.

Mississippi State Bulldogs QB Nick Fitzgerald

Simply put, Mississippi State’s defense this year will be scary. The Bulldogs finished 2017 ranked 28th nationally against the run, allowing 131.6 rushing yards per game. Seven starters return, including a pair of All-America candidates in defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons and defensive end Montez Sweat.

Offensively, the Bulldogs will again revolve around talented dual-threat quarterback Nick Fitzgerald. After dislocating his ankle in the Egg Bowl last year, Fitzgerald appears to be on track to start the season opener. And should he remain healthy, Fitzgerald will remain one of the conference’s best at the position. Running back Aeris Williams picked up 1,107 yards on the ground last season and he too should thrive in Moorhead’s offense. While it’s unfair to compare Fitzgerald and Williams to the Penn State quarterback-running back duo of Trace McSorley and Saquan Barkley, it’s not a stretch to say the Mississippi State offense should receive a bump in offensive production this year.

So what are the expectations for Mississippi State under Moorhead? Athlon asked a few editors and college football contributors to share their realistic win/loss projection for the Bulldogs in 2018.

Mississippi State Football Game-by-Game Predictions for 2018

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Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)

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I’m a believer in new Mississippi State coach Joe Moorhead, and the former Penn State offensive coordinator pieced together a good staff for his debut in Starkville. Moorhead also inherits a team that returns 16 starters after winning nine games last fall. Quarterback Nick Fitzgerald is on track to return at full strength after last year’s season-ending leg injury, and 1,000-yard rusher Aeris Williams joins him in the backfield. The Bulldogs are strong up front, and Moorhead’s background on offense should help Fitzgerald develop as a passer. New coordinator Bob Shoop inherits a defense that ranks among the best in the SEC. Mississippi State held opponents to 20.6 points a game last fall and boasts two of the league’s top defenders in Jeffery Simmons and Montez Sweat. I’ve got the Bulldogs at 9-3 but wouldn’t be surprised if they found a way to get 10 victories.

Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch)

Joe Moorhead's first season at Mississippi State is littered with intriguing matchups, from the Week 2 trip to Kansas State to the two-game home stand with Florida (and former coach Dan Mullen) and Auburn to the date with Alabama on Nov. 10 to the Egg Bowl in Oxford. The fans will be eagerly anticipating Mullen's return to Starkville, but the games against SEC West rivals Auburn, LSU and Texas A&M are more important.

Bryan Fischer (@BryanDFischer)

I'm not sure there's a new head coach in the country who inherited a better situation than Joe Moorhead did in Starkville. A healthy Nick Fitzgerald has a chance to really be special in this new system and I'm continually amazed at how underrated running back Aeris Williams is. There are some playmakers at all three levels on defense and the team should be excellent in the trenches on both sides of the ball. I wouldn't quite put MSU among the SEC's elite just yet but the Bulldogs are probably at the head of the pack in the next tier.

Elton Hayes (@EHDC12)

While 10 wins for a first-year head coach might seem ambitious, Mississippi State’s amount of returning talent, coupled with a friendly home schedule, could net Moorhead just that. The Bulldogs get an early-season test in the form of a visit to Kansas State but should walk away with a win and valuable road experience that should prove beneficial later in the year. Former head coach Dan Mullen’s visit to Starkville should elicit loads of emotions from players and fans.  Should Mississippi State earn a win at home against Auburn, the Bulldogs could be in contention for the SEC West crown.

(Top photo courtesy of @HailStateFB)