STARKVILLE, Miss. – A pair of impressive wins and a strong start from the new quarterback pushed Mississippi State into the Top 25 for the first time this season. The 23rd-ranked Bulldogs will try to prove they belong when they face their stiffest challenge of the nonconference slate when Kansas State visits on Saturday.
TV: Noon, ET. ESPN. LINE: Mississippi State -7.5.
Mississippi State was a regular in the Top 25 the past few seasons but started on the outside in 2019 before voters got a look at graduate transfer Tommy Stevens running coach Joe Moorhead's offense and putting up 38 points in back-to-back victories over Louisiana and Southern Miss. "We want to be a team that is balanced, and can run and pass with people (and have) effectiveness," Moorhead told reporters. "Hopefully the last two games you've seen kind of a snapshot of what we want to be. If teams take the run away, we are able to throw it, and if teams take a throw away, we are able to run it." Kansas State has been a fixture in the Top 25 for years and could find its way back quickly after a pair of dominating victories to start the season. "You win two games pretty handily, you better not fall in love with yourself and keep striving to get better in all phases: offense, defense and special teams," Wildcats coach Chris Klieman told reporters. "We have to just go back to work and continue to stack up each day."
ABOUT KANSAS STATE (2-0)
The Wildcats are in their first season under Klieman after the retirement of school icon Bill Snyder but are not taking any steps back on the field after beating Nicholls and Bowling Green by a combined score of 101-14. Kansas State piled up a total of 694 rushing yards in those two contests with senior running back James Gilbert (218 yards and three touchdowns) and quarterback Skylar Thompson helping to give the defense plenty of breathing room. "As a defensive player, I love to see what's going on," defensive tackle Trey Dishon told reporters. "Skylar's getting the boys right, (we) just gotta worry about our side of the ball. They're doing what they need to be doing."
ABOUT MISSISSIPPI STATE (2-0)
Stevens threw a pair of touchdown passes in last week's 38-15 triumph over Southern Miss before leaving with an upper-body injury and is questionable for Saturday. Running back Kylin Hill took over more responsibility on offense with Stevens out, pushing his totals to 320 yards and two TDs through two games, and is prepared for a bigger role if Stevens is limited. "It never excites you to see your teammate go down," Hill told reporters. "Tommy is a hard-working guy, but I had to step up to the plate. I had to do what I had to do to get the win."
1. Kansas State is the first Power 5 nonconference opponent to play in Starkville, Miss. since 2009.
2. Bulldogs DE Marquiss Spencer forced a fumble in each of the first two games.
3. The Wildcats posted more than 500 yards of total offense in back-to-back games for the first time since 2003.
PREDICTION: Mississippi State 17, Kansas State 13