Mississippi State coach Joe Moorhead was mentioned as a possibility for the open Rutgers job a few weeks ago. But according to a report from NJ.com, that interest has escalated to serious.

Rutgers would need to pay $2 million for Moorhead’s buyout from Mississippi State.

Moorhead, who turns 46 next month, is mentioned for the job because of his Northeast roots, head-coaching experience and winning record.

A Pittsburgh native, Moorhead was 38-13 in 4 seasons on the FCS level at Fordham, his Bronx, N.Y.-based alma mater, and then drew high marks as the offensive coordinator at Penn State. He enjoyed immediate success at Mississippi State with an 8-5 record last season, but has stumbled this season to a 3-3 record, including 1-2 in the SEC following last week’s loss to Tennessee.

He became emotional earlier this week in his regular weekly press conference and mentioned how the Tennessee loss “crushes your soul.”

“Coaching in the SEC for about a year-and-a-half now in a lot of ways has been a humbling experience,” Moorhead said Monday. “I don’t think you get to this point where I am without a certain level of success, and of confidence, but this game and the SEC, it has a way of keeping you honest.’’

When reports of Moorhead’s connection to Rutgers surfaced earlier this month, he deflected questions and said Rutgers had not contacted him at the time.

“I guess it’s getting towards that time of year,” Moorhead told reporters. “We ask our players to be focused on the task at hand and right now I’m focused on us getting better tomorrow, us doing a great job recruiting this weekend.”