Who got the better coach? Ole Miss or Mississippi State
Now that Ole Miss and Mississippi State have their new head football coaches, Matt Luke at Ole Miss and, according to college football insider Brett McMurphy, Joe Moorhead at Mississippi State, who got the better coach?
That’s what football in Mississippi is all about – which SEC school has the upper hand, so here are a few logistics to judge by. Coordinators definitely have a lot to say about what happens, but the captain gets the glory or goes down with the ship. Let’s compare the new captains.
Ole Miss coach Matt Luke already has a season under his belt, a full season interviewing for what he called a “destination job.” The former co-offensive coordinator led Ole Miss this season to a passing game that averaged 328 yards per game, good for No. 1 in the SEC and No. 8 in the country. Ole Miss was fourth in the SEC in scoring this season with nearly 33 points per game.
It wasn’t the first time Luke manned an offense that amassed offensive numbers. In 2015, Ole Miss set program records for scoring (531), touchdowns (68), total offense (6,731), passing yards (4,351) and passing touchdowns (35), among others. The Rebels led the SEC and were top 10 nationally in scoring (40.8), total offense (517.8 ypg) and passing (334.7 ypg).
Mississippi State circulated a lot of other names before settling on Moorhead. The Penn State offensive coordinator is a hot name in the rising coaching ranks.
The more the Penn State fan base freaks out over losing Joe Moorhead, the happier it makes me that we got him. pic.twitter.com/eJ5oaAjxzE
— John hannah (@JohnHannah42) November 29, 2017
Much like Luke’s numbers from 2015, Moorhead is doing the same in a different corner of the country. Last season, Penn State set school records for total offense (6,056 yards) and passing yards (3,650) and tied the school record for points scored with 526.
This season, Penn State is seventh in the country in scoring offense at 41.6 points per game and 25th in passing, first in the Big Ten with 285.8 yards per game. His innovative offense turned Fordham from laughing stock to Patriot League champions in the FCS – a 4-year stint that put him on the coaching hot sheet.
Moorhead told Penn Live before the 2016 season that his 2008 season as offensive coordinator at Akron got his offensive mind rolling.
“But in the 2008 season is when we really said, ‘Hey, we’re going to go with a limited number of personnels, a limited number of formations, kind of streamline our teachings, in our run schemes and what we do and in our pass schemes and what we do and allow our kids to play fast, physical and with confidence,’” Moorhead said.
In the same story from Penn Live before Moorhead even directed one play during the season, former NFL defensive coordinator Larry Coyer had this to say about him: “Joe will kill you. If he sees a defense in split safeties, then Penn State is probably going to run for 300 yards. If he likes the matchups in the pass game, then they’ll throw it. And it’s all going to happen very quickly.”
Sounds a lot like the coach from Ole Miss, the school former Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen tabbed “The School Up North.”
By all accounts, Moorhead won’t be tapping into any of Mullen’s mouthiness. His fast and quick-thinking playing style is the opposite of his tongue.
That’s another thing he and Luke seem to have in common.
Another common trait is the importance of the staff around each coach. Mississippi State is pretty much starting from scratch after Mullen takes everyone to Gainesville. Luke has a staff that made improvements, but still ranked dead last in the SEC in total defense, allowing 459.5 yards per game. Moorhead is walking onto a team loaded with returners who allowed barely more than 300 yards per game and ranked third in the conference in total defense, behind only Alabama and Georgia and fifth in scoring defense at 20.4 points per game.
Both have SEC-elite quarterbacks returning – Ole Miss has two in Shea Patterson and Jordan Ta’amu. Mississippi State quarterback Nick Fitzgerald can run, but he directed only the No. 13 passing offense out of the 14 SEC teams. That’s where Moorhead will be expected to work the magic he worked at Akron, Fordham and Penn State.
The race is on in Mississippi.
Neither school made splash hires, but both have coaches who will for at least the near future be trying to outscore the SEC and each other. Who got the better deal? That’s an impossible question to answer today. To force an answer, Luke has done offensively what he has done in the SEC. He gets the nod for now.
A quick Google search of Moorhead’s offensive qualifications and one can argue that could change quickly. For now, this is the SEC West. You’re not at Fordham anymore and Saquon Barkley isn’t coming to Starkville.