Mississippi State can now rally behind its starting quarterback as Tommy Stevens was named to lead the Bulldogs against Louisiana in New Orleans. Backup Keytaon Thompson has left the team and entered the transfer portal.

The NCAA came and left in about an hour, suspending 10 players for 8 games for academic malfeasance.

It’s been an eventful time in Starkville.

The offense, sans wide receiver, is loaded. With the best offensive line in recent memory, Stevens will have the talented Kylin Hill to run the football. Behind the OL, Hill should break personal and school records.

Last season ended with a bowl game in Florida. This season, with the cards falling right, the Bulldogs could go 9-3. But with the recent NCAA news and massive suspensions coming, all bets are off.

Here are 10 bold predictions for the 2019 season.

10. Kylin Hill will quadruple his TD output

As dynamic as he was, Hill only scored 4 touchdowns last season. This season will be one for the record books for Hill, who I think will rush for over 1,200 yards and find the end zone repeatedly.

9. LSU game will mean … everything

Should MSU beat Auburn on the road, it will host undefeated LSU in Week 8 and be ranked in the top 5 with a record of 6-0. CBS Sports will be on campus, as the eyes of the college football will be on Starkville. Should it lose to Auburn, it will lose 6 games in a row.

8. Zuber becomes the go-to target

Mississippi State WR and Kansas State transfer Isiah Zuber will lead the team in receptions and touchdowns receiving. While at Kansas State, he finished with 127 career reception, 1,321 yards and 11 TDs. I’m not sure there’s a more important person on offense, other than Kylin Hill.

7. About the gauntlet …

From Sept. 28 until Nov. 16, the Bulldogs will have a gauntlet of a schedule, as 5 of the 6 could be ranked in the Top 25. Should they go 4-2 during the run, they will finish 10-2 and have an outside chance at an access bowl. That said, 0-6 is a legit possibility, too.

6. Do not — repeat, do not — overlook Arkansas

The most dangerous game is against Arkansas on Nov. 2. It is sandwiched between Texas A&M and Alabama. Should the Bulldogs win in College Station, the Razorbacks would be primed for an upset.

5. D-line features 2 freshmen

Freshmen Nathan Pickering and Fabien Lovett will be starting on the defensive line as the Bulldogs begin to enter SEC play. The duo will be named to the All-SEC Freshman team. MSU has become a destination for high school prospects to land and be equipped for the NFL. Just look to the most recent NFL Draft. Pickering and Lovett are the next wave.

4. Cam Dantzler will double his interception total

Dantzler had 2 picks last season. Assuming enough balls are thrown his way, hardly a guarantee, I expect him to make even more plays this season.

I also expect Maurice Smitherman to have a big season. His numbers were pedestrian last fall and they will improve. Between pass breakups and interceptions, this needs to be an All-SEC season from both defensive backs.

3. Garrett Shrader will play

Tommy Stevens won the starting job, which led to Keytaon Thompson’s decision to transfer. Shrader is a decorated dual-threat at 6-4, 220 pounds. I expect midway through the season, you’ll begin to see packages for him to groom him for the 2020 campaign.

2. 2 defensive players make 1st-team All-SEC

The likely candidates will be Erroll Thompson at linebacker and defensive back Cameron Dantzler.

1. The bowl trip won’t be as nice

With the recent NCAA news, Mississippi State will fall all the way down to a lower third bowl tie-in to the SEC. This will be a critical upcoming season for Joe Moorhead if things go south midway through the year.

It is paramount for the Bulldogs to start hot and have no slip-ups against Louisiana, USM and Kansas State. The uncertainty surrounding the program is evident and wins cure everything. The gauntlet in October will be the answer to the season.

How will they respond to adversity? How will Moorhead respond to NCAA penalties?

We will find out soon enough.