Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks (0-0) at Mississippi State Bulldogs (0-0)
|Date & Time||Saturday September 1, 2018, 7:30 PM (EDT)|
The Line: Mississippi State Bulldogs -46.5 -- Over/Under: 53
|TV Channel||Stream College Football all season on ESPN+. Start your 7-day FREE trial today!|
We have some opening week college football action from Davis Wade Stadium at Scott Field in Starkville, MS as the Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks take on the Mississippi State Bulldogs.
The Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks come into the 2018 season looking to improve on a frustrating 2017 campaign that saw the Jax finish 4-7 overall, including 4-5 in Southland Conference play to finish in a tie for 6th place with Northwestern State. Now, the Lumberjacks have an even harder mountain to climb with the loss of leading all-purpose man Kijana Amous who racked up 1,357 all-purpose yards last season, and the suspension and subsequent resignation of head coach Clint Conque, leading Jeff Byrd to take over head coaching duties. Jake Blumrick leads the Lumberjacks’ offense at QB after completing 171 of 303 passes last season for over 1,650 yards, 8 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. Blumrick will also have his favorite target back in Tamrick Pace who caught 53 balls for 645 yards and 5 scores. Defensively, Alize Ward is the team’s anchor in the secondary after leading SFA with four interceptions last season. Only time will tell if the Lumberjacks can navigate a relatively tough schedule to finish the year above .500 in Byrd’s first year in charge of the Lumberjacks.
The Mississippi State Bulldogs will look to build on a successful 2017 season that saw Mississippi State finish 9-4 overall with a 4-4 record in SEC play, good for a tie for 4th in the SEC West division and an invite to the TaxSlayer Bowl, a game that the Bulldogs won by a final score of 31-27 against Louisville. Head coach Dan Mullen is now at Florida, while Penn State offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead steps in to take over the Mississippi State head coach position. One key to the Mississippi State offense is the health of starting QB Nick Fitzgerald, who is coming off of a broken leg that he suffered late last year against Ole Miss. Aeris Williams is back after rushing for over 1,100 yards last season, while almost all of the Bulldogs’ top receivers from last season return, including leading receiver Jesse Jackson who caught 27 passes to lead the Bulldogs in that department and Deddrick Thomas who caught 4 touchdowns, but the prayer is that JUCO transfer Stephen Guidry will turn into the Bulldogs’ top receiving option this season. Defensively, Mississippi State retains most of a defensive unit that finished top-10 in the country in yards allowed and gave up a mere 21 points per game last season. Jeffery Simmons and Montez Sweat will be tasked to lead the Bulldog pass rush, while Mark McLaurin is back to lead the secondary after leading the team with 6 interceptions last season as part of a secondary unit that finished 12th in the country in pass defense.
Trends will be updated if/when they are released.
Who knows, maybe Byrd is the guy that can get Stephen F. Austin over the hump and into a contender in the Southland Conference. However, if he wanted to be that guy, I probably would’ve scheduled an easier season opener than going on the road to Mississippi State. The Bulldogs didn’t have much going for them in terms of offense last year outside of Williams and what Fitzgerald brought to the table before getting injured, but maybe that will all change now that the Bulldogs appear to be healthy. The defense is still a killer and with an offense to back it up, this could be a dark horse to watch in the SEC this season, and I think it starts with a blowout win against a Stephen F. Austin team that doesn’t have a whole lot going for them right now.