Mississippi State football hosts Kansas State on Saturday in Starkville. Here are your three keys to a Bulldog win over Kansas State.
By Matt Zemek
The 2018 Mississippi State football team played Kansas State, but that team faced Bill Snyder before the KSU icon stepped down at the end of a second and separate tenure with the Wildcats. This year, MSU plays a team coached by Chris Klieman, who led the North Dakota State FCS juggernaut before testing his skills at the Power Five FBS level. The chess match between Klieman and Joe Moorhead should be one of the more interesting components of this non-conference clash, part of a home-and-home series between the two schools.
Key 1 – Pushing Tommy Stevens
Tommy Stevens has not needed to be especially dynamic, or imposing, or prolific in Mississippi State’s first two games of the season. The Bulldogs have had more than enough resources on defense and in their running game to physically handle Louisiana-Lafayette in Week 1 and Southern Mississippi in Week 2. The idea that Stevens had to be at his very best in either of those games was a stretch. His main task was to get out of the way and allow his team to win those games, making necessary plays while avoiding key mistakes. Stevens generally did that.
Now, however, the caliber of competition becomes noticeably better. Kansas State will probably finish in the lower half of the 10-team Big 12, but it is still a few notches higher than the teams MSU played in the first two weeks of the season. SEC play is just around the bend, so Stevens knows he has to elevate his game in concert with his backs and receivers. He can’t stay hidden in the shadows. He needs to be able to bust out a 275-yard passing performance (if not 300) with lots of big plays and minimal mistakes. He doesn’t just need to test the Kansas State defense; he needs to test himself and his own teammates.
If Mississippi State goes into SEC competition without a collection of game film which can scare opposing defensive coordinators in the conference, it will be harder for this offense to grow into its full potential over the course of the season. It is time for a breakout performance which can set the table for the SEC season and give Moorhead the assurance that he can develop an offense other SEC defenses will respect.
Key 2 – Physical defense
The MSU defense improved from Week 1 to Week 2. Now it faces a much better Kansas State offense in Week 3. The overall stats might decline due to the improved quality of the opponent, but Mississippi State needs to be ready for the physical challenge Kansas State will pose. The Wildcats are nowhere near the Big 12’s best, but they will be able to throw their weight around a lot better than Southern Miss or ULL. Mississippi State football’s defense has to be ready for trench warfare on Saturday.
Key 3 – Moorhead’s Comfort Zone
Moorhead found a comfort zone with his Penn State offense in the 2016 season which transformed the Nittany Lions into a Rose Bowl-caliber team. Moorhead, in his attempt to develop a first-class offense in Starkville, needs to leave this game against Kansas State with a much better sense of what his offensive personnel can achieve, heading into SEC play.
Saturday‘s game kicks off at 11:00 AM CT (12:00 PM ET). Watch on the ESPN Network.
This Week’s SEC Football News and Analysis
|Game||First Looks||3 Keys|
|Kansas State vs. Mississippi State||KSU||MSU||Preview||KSU 31, MSU 24||Stats|
|Colorado State vs. Arkansas||CSU||Arky||Preview||Arkansas 55, CSU 34||Stats|
|Northwestern St vs. LSU||NWSU||LSU||Preview||LSU 65, NWSU 14||Stats|
|Florida vs. Kentucky||FLA / UK||UK / FLA||Preview||Florida 29, UK 21||Stats|
|Kent State vs. Auburn||Kent St.||Auburn||Preview||Auburn 55, Kent St. 16||Stats|
|Alabama vs. South Carolina||USC / Bama||Bama / USC||Preview||Bama 47, USC 23||Stats|
|SE Missouri St vs. Missouri||SEMO||Mizzou||Preview||Mizzou 50, SEMO 0||Stats|
|Lamar vs. Texas A&M||Lamar||Texas A&M||Preview||TAMU 62, Lamar 3||Stats|
|Arkansas St. vs. Georgia||Ark. State||UGA||Preview||UGA 55, ASU 0||Stats|
|Chattanooga vs. Tennessee||UTC||Tennessee||Preview||Tennessee 45, UTC 0||Stats|
|SE Louisiana vs. Ole Miss||SE Louisiana||Ole Miss||Preview||Ole Miss 40, SELA 29||Stats|