Sideline View by Dale McKee

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It's finally here! College football 2018 begins this Thursday in Mississippi. The key match-up Thursday will be the “Battle of the Sword” between Millsaps and Belhaven. Mississippi College will also be at home as they host Clark Atlanta in Clinton. Delta State will head to Stephenville, Texas, Wednesday morning for their Thursday game against Tarleton State. Mississippi Valley will make the longest journey as they head to the black hills of North Dakota. Alcorn State will begin their season in Atlanta Saturday morning against Georgia Tech in a game that will be televised on the ACC Network. Ole Miss will head to Houston for a shootout with Texas Tech in a game that will be on ESPN at 11 a.m. USM will host Jackson State later that night at 6:00 in Hattiesburg while Mississippi State will open the Joe Moorhead era in Starkville Saturday night at 6:30 on ESPNU.
New Star in Vegas
The Joe Moorhead opening act in Starkville will be against Stephen F. Austin. Moorhead replaces Dan Mullen, who was successful in his nine-year reign. The new head coach has a tough act to follow in Mullen. The former MSU head coach had two nine-win seasons and a ten-win season to go with eight straight bowl teams. His only downfall was never having a winning November record. Moorhead comes to Starkville from Penn State where he led one of the nation's top offensive teams. MSU had the second best rushing offense in the SEC last year and has a gifted quarterback returning in Nick Fitzgerald. Moorhead inherits a talented defense that was one of the best units in the conference last fall. Montez Sweat and Jeffery Simmons return at tackle while Willie Gay and Leo Lewis are solid at linebacker. Defensive backs Mark McLaurin, Jonathan Abram and Jamal Peters cement the defense. It could be a special year for Moorhead.
D means success in Oxford
Ole Miss and Texas Tech possess similarities. Both are labeled with pass happy offensive teams as both teams finished in the top 20 nationally in total offense in 2017. Both teams finished .500 in regular season play and both showed the inability to stop the other teams as both teams allowed almost 35 points a game. Ole Miss returns eight defensive starters while Tech has several experienced players returning on that side of the ball. The Rebels have the edge on offense with quarterback Jordan Ta’amu returning along with possibly the best trio of receivers in the country in DeMarkus Lodge, A.J. Brown and D.K. Metcalf. The offensive line is experienced and could enable Jones County Junior College transfer running back Scottie Phillips to have a breakout season. The Rebels are solid on the defensive line as Benito Jones leads a veteran unit. The linebacking play must improve while the secondary is a competitive unit. The Rebels will have a banner year if the defense rises to the occasion.
Home Sweet Home
The USM Golden Eagles should dominate Jackson State, but with Hal Mumme running the JSU offense look for USM to be tested on defense. The strength of the Eagles defense is in their front. The line and linebackers on defense are solid while the weakness is the inexperience in the secondary. The offense is in good hands under the leadership of quarterback Jack Abraham. The kicking game is top notch as Parker Shaunfield is one of the best in the college game. If the Eagles are to have a successful season, they will have to defend their home turf. Last season, USM was ambushed as UAB and North Texas strolled into M.M. Roberts Stadium and stunned the home team. Those wins would have pushed them to the conference championship game. The Golden Eagles could sneak into the C-USA title hunt if they can win at home.
Contact Dale at ddmckee18@yahoo.com