No. 18 Miss State plays first game under coach Joe Moorhead
Stephen F. Austin (4-7 last season) at No. 18 Mississippi State (9-4), 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU
Line: No line.
Series record: First meeting.
WHAT’S AT STAKE?
It will be Joe Moorhead’s head coaching debut at Mississippi State when the Bulldogs host Stephen F. Austin on Saturday night. Moorhead comes to Starkville after two successful seasons as the offensive coordinator at Penn State. Moorhead was the head coach at Fordham for four seasons from 2012-15, but has never been the head coach at the FBS level. Stephen F. Austin — which plays at the FCS level in the Southland Conference — is playing its first game against a team from the Southeastern Conference.
Mississippi State QB Keytaon Thompson vs. Stephen F. Austin’s defense. Thompson gets the start in the opener after senior QB Nick Fitzgerald was suspended one game for a violation of team policy. Thompson is just a sophomore, but has some experience: He led the Bulldogs to a TaxSlayer Bowl win over Louisville last year after replacing the injured Fitzgerald.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Stephen F. Austin: DB Alize Ward. The safety can affect the game in several different ways. He had 75 tackles last year and a team-high four interceptions last year. He also gained 726 yards on kick returns.
Mississippi State: DE Montez Sweat. The 6-foot-6, 245-pounder had 10½ sacks last season, which led the SEC.
FACTS & FIGURES
Stephen F. Austin is led by interim coach Jeff Byrd following Clint Conque’s resignation more than three weeks ago. Conque was suspended in June because of an “investigation into violations of university policy.” ... Mississippi State’s offensive line has a combined 76 career starts, including 23 by right guard Deion Calhoun. ... The Bulldogs have won 13 straight games against opponents from the FCS level by an average score of 47-12.