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Odds Say Mississippi State QB Battle a Tight Race between Tommy Stevens and Keytaon Thompson

Can Tommy Stevens win the Mississippi State starting QB spot
Tommy Stevens is given the edge by bookmakers to be the starting QB for Mississippi State this season. Photo By @MajorLeaguePets(Twitter)
  • Tommy Stevens may not have won the Penn State job, but he has two seasons of experience in the Joe Moorhead offense
  • Moorhead offenses want to challenge opponents deep
  • All parties have experience in specialty packages with two quarterbacks on the field, so the loser won’t go away completely 

Mississippi State’s passing woes from 2018 — tied for 88th in the nation in yards per attempt, 13th in the SEC in quarterback rating — were largely placed on Nick Fitzgerald’s shoulders, which wasn’t entirely fair. The Bulldogs were far from electric at the wide receiver position, which didn’t help Fitzgerald.

But quarterback play certainly did not halt MSU’s inability to challenge opponents downfield, and the Bulldogs will stop at nothing to find someone who can do it in 2019. 

Mississippi State Starting Quarterback Odds

Player Odds
Tommy Stevens -170
Keytaon Thompson +130

*Odds taken July 31, 2019

Both have gotten limited playing time before this season, to the point that neither has a proven head start when Mississippi State opens preseason camp on Friday with SEC title odds way down the list of betting favorites.

Lion in New Den

In his years in Happy Valley, Stevens was mostly known for the agent-of-chaos role Moorhead created for him, known as Lion. It gave a versatile athlete license to use that versatility at all spots on the field, even at times in gadget packages with two quarterbacks on the field.

Maybe that’s an option if Stevens loses the battle to Thompson, but Stevens didn’t leave Penn State to be Moorhead’s Lion — er, Bulldog — once more. He came to be Moorhead’s quarterback, and that means throwing the ball accurately to all portions of the field.

There is little in that regard on either quarterback in this battle: Thompson has attempted just over 100 passes in his career, nearly half of them against non-conference competition, while Stevens has just 76 collegiate attempts under his belt.

Moorhead says he wants quarterbacks that can beat teams with their arms, their legs and their brains. Both have proven they have the legs for this job; can their arms make the throws, and can their brains comprehend every facet of this offense? That will decide who wins this battle.

Final Verdict

As someone who lives and works locally, it was refreshing to see these lines as close as they are. The small sample on Thompson has not been kind, but it has been just that — a small sample — and I think the talent in his right arm will expose itself in due time. That small sample has impacted the public opinion of Thompson in a negative way, even if it’s too early to be so certain on him.

But Moorhead saw Stevens in practice daily for two seasons; it’s likely he’s seen more balls out of Stevens’ hand than Thompson’s, despite a season and two springs in Starkville.

When Mississippi State went to the transfer portal for a quarterback this season, it was not in search of blind improvement. It was in search of a specific kind of improvement, in the exact schemes Moorhead has come to be known for and the downfield aggression that comes with it. Moorhead, being the intelligent man he is, surely wouldn’t pull a player who can’t satisfy it.

I think both Stevens and Thompson will have successful tenures as Bulldogs, but Stephens will do it in 2019 and Thompson in 2020. 

SBD’s QB Battle Coverage

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