Nick Fitzgerald

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Baker Mayfield, J.T. Barrett, Lamar Jackson and Sam Darnold among 2017 Heisman Trophy favorites

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The new college football season may still be a long way away, but it is never too early to place your bets on who you think will win the Heisman Trophy in the 2017 season. The very early favorite, according to odds released by Bovada on Monday, is Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield.

Bovada gives Mayfield 11/2 odds to win the Heisman Trophy this fall. He is followed by Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett (6/1), which sets up a nice Heisman Trophy showdown in September when the defending Big 12 champions head to Columbus for the second game in a home-and-home series that was won by Ohio State in Norman in 2016. Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson, the 2016 Heisman Trophy winner, is listed with 7/1 odds, with USC’s rising star quarterback Sam Darnold listed at 9/1.

Penn State’s dynamic duo of running back Saquon Barkley and quarterback Trace McSorley each have 10/1 odds, along with Washington quarterback Jake Browning.

Looking back to the early odds from last January, Barrett and Mayfield each had 10/1 Heisman odds. Louisville’s Jackson was not on the radar.

Mississippi State blocks Miami (Ohio) field goal to seal St. Petersburg Bowl win

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Mississippi State (6-7) blocked a potential game-winning field goal attempt by Miami (Ohio) (6-7) in the final 10 seconds of the St. Petersburg Bowl to secure a 17-16 win. The blocked field goal let Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen off the hook for a questionable coaching decision on the Bulldogs’ final offensive possession.

Rather than kick a field goal to extend the lead to four points, and immediately after having starting quarterback Nick Fitzgerald limp his way off the field, Mullen had Damian Williams roll out and look to convert on a fourth and four from the Miami 22-yard line. The pass fell incomplete, and gave Miami a chance to move down the field to set themselves up for a potential game-winning field goal. The RedHawks moved their way to the Mississippi State 17-yard line and then appeared to settle for a field goal, using their next two plays to set the ball at the desired spot for kicker Nick Dowd while sacrificing three yards in exchange for forcing Mississippi State to burn two timeouts. With Dowd set for a 37-yard attempt, the kick was blocked by Nelson Adams with five seconds to play.

Mississippi State battled back from a 16-7 deficit in the second half to take a 17-16 lead with 10 straight points. Fitzgerald ripped off a 44-yard touchdown to generate a spark in the second half and a field goal early in the fourth quarter gave the Bulldogs their first lead of the day. Fitzgerald ended the day rushing for a game-high 132 yards and two scores and passing for 136 yards. Mississippi State was outgained by Miami, 433-335, but won the turnover battle with two forced turnovers and no turnovers by the Bulldogs offense.

The MAC falls to a woeful 0-5 in bowl games this season, while the SEC gets things started on the right foot with a 1-0 record. Also, going back to last season, teams reaching the bowl season with a 5-7 record (as Mississippi State did) are now 4-0 in bowl games.

Mississippi State opens the 2017 season at home on September 2 against Charleston Southern. The Bulldogs will also host BYU and UMass in non-conference play and go diving head first into the SEC schedule at home against LSU on September 16. Mississippi State’s 2017 road schedule includes games at Georgia, Auburn, Texas A&M and Arkansas.

Miami will open the 2017 season on the road against Marshall from Conference USA. The RedHawks will also play Cincinnati (at home) and Notre Dame next season.

Late TD gives Mississippi State some confidence at halftime of St. Petersburg Bowl

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After largely being shut down in the first half, Mississippi State may have found a reason to be optimistic about the rest of this afternoon’s St. Petersburg Bowl. The Bulldogs trail Miami Ohio 9-7 at the half, but finally got the offense going with Nick Fitzgerald scoring a touchdown in the final minute of the half.

Mississippi State has been unable to get much going on offense against the Miami defense. No drive traveled more than 28 yards before Mississippi State’s final possession of the half. The Bulldogs have been forced to punt three times and turnover the ball once on downs before working their way down the field late in the half. Fitzgerald has completed six of 13 passes for 73 yards and leads the team with 33 rushing yards.

Miami opened the game with a field goal on the first possession of the afternoon. The lead was extended to 9-0 in the second quarter with a six-yard touchdown pass from Gus Ragland to James Gardner. The extra-point attempt was blocked, keeping the lead from going to double digits.

Miami had a chance to put more points on the scoreboard in the second quarter but a fumble inside the red zone cost the RedHawks a scoring opportunity. The defense held strong though and forced a three-and-out, which led to Miami’s touchdown drive.

The MAC could really use a boost, even if it has to come against a team with a losing record. The MAC is 0-4 this bowl season. Mississippi State is getting the postseason underway for the SEC.

Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott ends spring on a high note

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You could not have asked for much more from Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott in the spring game in Starkville Saturday afternoon. The potential Heisman Trophy contender capped the spring with 231 passing yards, three touchdowns while completing 20 of 29 pass attempts before being given a break by head coach Dan Mullen.

A handful of schools going through spring games on Saturday have quarterback competitions and debates brewing, but that is far from the case at Mississippi State. There it is clearly Prescott’s job and nobody is aiming to take it away. Prescott emerged as a top player in the SEC while leading Mississippi State to a number one ranking at one point en route to an appearance in the Orange Bowl. The season may not have ended the way Prescott and Mississippi State would have liked, but he brings plenty of promise for the Bulldogs in the fall, and his spring performance should boost the confidence just a bit more.

As good as Prescott was Saturday afternoon for the Maroon team, it was not enough to lead the squad to victory over the White team. With Nick Fitzgerald at quarterback, the White scored the only touchdown of the second half to take a 28-24 victory. Fitzgerald will be Prescott’s backup in the fall, and his performance was not too bad. He completed 20 of 30 passes for 255 yards and a pair of touchdowns through the air and he rushed for 31 yards and another score, but he was picked off twice. The highlight of the afternoon from Fitzgerald came in the second quarter with a 59-yard touchdown pass to Anthony Dixon.  Dontavian Lee led all players with 53 rushing yards and a touchdown for the White team.

Mississippi State opens the 2015 season on the road on September 5 against Southern Mississippi.