Mississippi State Football: Re-tooled defense gets test vs. Kansas State

Mississippi State football invites the Kansas State Wildcats to Starkville for a noon kick this Saturday. Who’ll win this SEC vs. Big 12 matchup?

This will be the stiffest competition for both the Wildcats and Bulldogs. It’s the final non-conference game for both teams before they enter into Big 12 and SEC play, respectively. This game should let us know where each team is coming into conference play.

Chris Klieman is settling into the culture in the”Little Apple” that is Manhattan, Kan. It will be interesting to see how much progress he’s made in year one.

Joe Moorehead is in his second year down in Starkville, and he has some big time players to replace this season on that defensive line. You just don’t find a Jefferey Simmons, Montez Sweat and Johnathan Abram on the street.

This game will tell us how good the Wildcats are and how good the Bulldogs’ retooled defense is.

Here’s how you can watch Saturday’s Power Five matchup:

Date: Saturday, Sept. 14
Time: 12 p.m. ET
Location: Starkville, Miss.
Venue: Davis Wade Stadium
TV: ESPN
Live Stream: watchESPN or FuboTV

Keys to Victory

For Kansas State, it’s still about the running game. The Wildcats come to Starkville with back-to-back 300-yard rushing games albeit against Bowling Green State and Nicholls. Their bell cow will be fifth-year senior and Ball State transfer James Gilbert who is the Wildcats’ leading rusher. The rushing attack doesn’t end there. Expect to see both Harry Trotter and Jordon Brown make significant contributions to the run game as well.

Mississippi State isn’t short on athletes on defense, so Kansas State is going to need junior quarterback Skylar Thompson to be efficient with the ball so the Bulldogs don’t try to load the box against their running game.

Mississippi State hopes that starting quarterback Penn State transfer Tommy Stevens will be able to play after a head injury in their game against Southern Miss. If he doesn’t play it’s unclear whether true freshman Garrett Shrader or junior Keytaon Thompson will get the start. Whoever gets the start for the Bulldogs will find themselves handing the ball to Kylin Hill who torched the Wildcats for 211 yards and two scores last year in Manhattan.

Both defenses are stout, and played well against inferior opponents, so we will learn much more about each team’s defense after this game.

Betting Odds

Odds courtesy of Bovada

Line: Mississippi State -7.5
Over/Under: 52

Prediction

There aren’t many programs that can replace the quality of defensive linemen that Mississippi State lost to the NFL draft. It’s one thing to lose really good players but losing NFL caliber linemen like Simmons and Sweat (both with first-round talent, by the way) is hard on any program especially a smaller one like the Bulldogs.

So far so good for the beginning of the Klieman era at Kansas State, but this is by far the best team he’s faced this season.

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If I were a betting man, I’d take the Wildcats and the points or the under because it’s going to be a close one and we don’t know if Stevens is going to play for Mississippi State. If he doesn’t go, that limits what the ‘Dogs can do on offense. However, it’s hard to go against an SEC team at home in a non-conference game.

Final Score: Mississippi State 24, Kansas State 17