Mississippi State will begin the 2018 season ranked inside the Top 25, way inside according to some experts. CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd released a post-spring ranking which has the Bulldogs ranked 11th.
Good reason exists for that enthusiasm.
The Bulldogs, behind new head coach Joe Moorhead return 81 percent of their entire production from 2017 off a team that went 9-4. The Bulldogs have several players on both sides of the ball who should be draft picks in 2019 – Jeffery Simmons, Montez Sweat and Aeris Williams jump first to mind.
Rarely do we see a new coach walk into a situation like this, but Moorhead inherits a team well-built by Dan Mullen for immediate success.
The Bulldogs also have a manageable schedule playing Florida and Auburn at home while their toughest road game before November is at LSU – a week after the Tigers play Georgia.
The returning talent and schedule could have the Bulldogs heading into November eyeing a trip to Tuscaloosa with the SEC West title on the line.
There’s a long way to go before then and many questions to answer, chief among them being: how healthy is Nick Fitzgerald?
Fitzgerald’s 2017 season ended abruptly in the Egg Bowl after a nasty ankle injury and while reports are “good” about his rehab, we won’t really know how effective he is until September.
A healthy Fitzgerald would be a great weapon for Moorhead, but a 50% Fitz would mean sophomore Key Thompson could be called upon. While Thompson has shown signs of being a big time SEC quarterback, there is a learning curve.
Also undecided for Mississippi State is just who will play corner(s)? While Bob Shoop has talent to work with on the defensive side of the ball, the Bulldogs lost both corners to graduation and will be breaking in new names and faces. If the right guys aren’t identified, the Bulldogs could find themselves in sticky situations defending the pass in 2018.
(You can follow Jake Wimberly on Twitter @Jakewim)
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