(This is the first of a 12 part series previewing 2019 opponents for the Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns.  Today:  Mississippi State.   The Cajuns "host" Mississippi State at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Saturday August 31, at 11 AM.  The game will be televised on ESPNU).

Mississippi State finished 8-5 a year ago with three of their losses coming on the road to Kentucky, LSU and Alabama.  They notched wins over both Auburn and Texas A&M, both at home.  The Bulldogs used a stout defense, especially up front, to make it difficult for the opposition to score.  They held seven opponents to ten points or less and did not give up 30 points in a game all season.

But the Bulldogs suffered heavy losses, losing all four starting defensive linemen.  They also lost three starters in the defensive backfield  But there's plenty of talent, especially at linebacker with Willie Gay, Errol Thompson and Brian Cole all returning.

Offensively, the question is who will replace Nick Fitzgerald at quarterback?  Keytaon Thompson, last year's backup, is competing with Penn State transfer Tommy Stevens for the starting job.  Neither has Fitzgerald's running ability, but might be better passers.  Kylin Hill will be the featured back after rushing for over 700 yards a year ago.  Three starters return on the offensive line.

THE SCHEDULE:  In addition to Louisiana, Mississippi State plays Southern Miss, Kansas State and Abilene Christian, all at home.  Their East division opponents are Kentucky (at home) and Tennessee (in Knoxville).

OUTLOOK FOR AUGUST 31:  Fitzgerald did it all a year ago for the Bulldogs in their 56-10 win over the Cajuns.  He rushed for four touchdowns and threw for two more.  The Bulldogs' quarterbacks rushed for 175 yards in the game as Mississippi State rolled up over 600 yards in offense.  Meanwhile, that Bulldogs' defense held the Cajuns to just 65 net yards rushing, with Trey Ragas leading the way with 49.

Any time you play a Power 5 school coaches will tell you it's a measuring stick. It was obvious a year ago the Cajuns didn't measure up in most phases of the game.  They'll move the ball better this time around, and shouldn't give up 600 yards on defense. They should measure up better this time around, but if they're going to pull the upset, they need to do something they haven't done well in many years...force multiple turnovers.  We'll see if they're up to that task.