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The Countdown

A bottom-to-top assessment of the F.B.S. landscape heading into the 2012 season.

The Countdown

No. 31: Mississippi State

What last fall did was bring Mississippi State back down to Earth. Run roughshod over the SEC? Leap tall buildings, Nick Saban and L.S.U. in a single bound? Put together an offense that will leave this defense-based conference gasping for breath? It’s not that easy, with last season as our evidence — but don’t get off the bandwagon. Instead, adjust your thinking to recognize the battles that await any team hoping to reach bowl eligibility in the SEC, let alone one planning to go from the outhouse to the penthouse in a three-year span. The road to a major bowl will always go through an Auburn, Arkansas, L.S.U. or Alabama; that’s life in the SEC West, where you’re either quick or you’re dead, and no one wants to be Mississippi. So where does that leave the Bulldogs heading into fall camp? Here’s where it should: firm in the knowledge that progression comes in all shapes and sizes; that sometimes, improvement is not necessarily manifested in the win column; and that last year’s team was not necessarily worse than the nine-win team that preceded it. All systems are still go. The bandwagon remains full. But it will never, ever be easy to navigate the rocky shores of the SEC West.

SEC, West

Starkville, Miss.


Returning starters
12 (5 offense, 7 defense)

Last year’s ranking
No. 22

2011 record
(7-6, 2-6)

Last year’s

No. 50

2012 schedule

  • Sept. 1
    Jackson St.
  • Sept. 8
  • Sept. 15
    at Troy
  • Sept. 22
    South Alabama
  • Oct. 6
    at Kentucky
  • Oct. 13
  • Oct. 20
  • Oct. 27
    at Alabama
  • Nov. 3
    Texas A&M
  • Nov. 10
    at L.S.U.
  • Nov. 17
  • Nov. 24
    at Mississippi

Last year’s prediction

Will further progression lead to an improvement in the win column? It’s going to be hard to top last year’s nine-win total, especially with an SEC slate that lands L.S.U., South Carolina and Alabama at home, not to mention some tough games on the road. Why could M.S.U. disappoint? Because there are holes to address on both sides of the ball: left tackle on offense, most notably, but also defensive end and linebacker, though Maye could provide the immediate impact in the middle of the second level. Is Mississippi State a viable contender to take home the West? Not really, not with L.S.U., Alabama and Arkansas farther along in the process. But the Bulldogs just get better and better under Mullen, so a similar finish to last season should be easily doable.

2011 recap

In a nutshell A struggle? At times, yes. The offensive decline was confusing, and can be tied back to two factors: up-and-down quarterback play and spotty play along the offensive line. Perhaps the latter contributed to the former. The Bulldogs finished tied for 62nd nationally in sacks allowed despite attempting the 89th-most passes in the country, which does illustrate just how hard it was for the Bulldogs to replace Derrek Sherrod as a pass protector. The offense as a whole was simply less dynamic; Mississippi State finished 72nd nationally in plays of 10 or more yards, 95th in plays of 20 or more yards and 75th in plays of 30 or more yards. In 2010, for example, the Bulldogs finished 34th in the F.B.S. in plays of 30 or more yards. The defense carried the water last fall, and that this group remained stout without the same degree of help from the offensive side of the ball was the most pleasant aspect of Mississippi State’s 2011 season. Scratch that: The most pleasant part of last fall was a return to bowl play for the second straight season.

High point Another Egg Bowl win. By eight points? Try 28 points. Mullen is now 3-0 against the school up north, joining Allyn McKeen as the only coaches in Mississippi State’s modern era to open with three straight wins over Ole Miss. The Rebels hope that Hugh Freeze can return some balance to this rancorous in-state rivalry.

Low point Nothing too embarrassing, though Mississippi State was steamrolled by Arkansas, 44-17, on the second-to-last Saturday of the regular season. That 27-point loss was Mullen’s second-worst since joining the program in 2009, one point ahead of a 31-3 loss to Alabama during his debut campaign.

Tidbit Last year’s 28-point win over the Rebels was the Bulldogs’ largest in the modern history of the Egg Bowl. [As a reminder, I’ve used 1936, the year of the first A.P. Poll, as the line of demarcation for the modern era.] Prior to last fall, the program’s largest margin of victory in the Egg Bowl came in 1998, when the Bulldogs won by 22 points (28-6). Not even the great McKeen ever notched a win by more than 21 points; he won his first four against Ole Miss, ending that run with a 34-13 victory in 1942. In the rivalry’s history – which dates back to 1901 – M.S.U. has won five games by more than 28 points: 44-6 in 1908, 65-0 in 1915, 36-0 in 1916, 34-0 in 1918 and 33-0 in 1919.

Tidbit (tough schedules edition) All 17 of Mullen’s losses in Starkville have come against either ranked teams or teams receiving votes in one or both of that specific week’s polls. In 2009, the Bulldogs lost to Auburn, Houston and Arkansas when each was receiving votes; every other loss has come against a nationally-ranked opponent. Six of the remaining 14 losses have come against opponents then ranked in the top 10: Alabama, Florida and L.S.U. in 2009, and Alabama, L.S.U. and Arkansas a season ago.

Tidbit (after 45 minutes edition) A fact that tells a story about not only Mississippi State but also the SEC: M.S.U. has won 34 straight games when leading after three quarters. Conversely, the Bulldogs have lost 23 straight when trailing after three quarters.

Tidbit (drafts edition) Mississippi State was the only school in the country in 2012 to have a first-round pick in the N.F.L., M.L.B. and N.B.A. drafts. Former defensive tackle Fletcher Cox – more on him later – went 12th overall during the N.F.L. Draft festivities in April. On June 4, former pitcher Chris Stratton, the SEC Pitcher of the Year, was taken 20th overall by the San Francisco Giants. Later that month, on the 28th, former power forward Arnell Moultrie was taken 27th overall by the Miami Heat; Moultrie was then traded to the Philadelphia 76ers. As noted by Brandon Marcello of The Jackson Clarion-Ledger, it’s believed that Florida was the last SEC team to have this triple-dip, doing so in 2007.

Former players in the N.F.L.

21 RB Vick Ballard (Indianapolis), S Wade Bonner (Philadelphia), OT James Carmon (Buffalo), LB Jamar Chaney (Philadelphia), DT Fletcher Cox (Philadelphia), RB Anthony Dixon (San Francisco), DE Sean Ferguson (Buffalo), LB Mario Haggan (St. Louis), DT Antonio Johnson (Indianapolis), DT Tommy Kelly (Oakland), OT Addison Lawrence (Baltimore), TE Donald Lee (Cincinnati), WR Lance Long (Detroit), DT Kyle Love (New England), DE Pernell McPhee (Baltimore), S Charles Mitchell (Atlanta), OG Quentin Saulsberry (Minnesota), OT Derek Sherrod (Green Bay), OT David Stewart (Tennessee), LB Chris White (Buffalo), LB K.J. Wright (Seattle).

Arbitrary top five list

M.L.B. first basemen who played in the SEC
1. Frank Thomas (Auburn).
2. Rafael Palmeiro (Mississippi State).
3. Todd Helton (Tennessee).
4. Joe Adcock (L.S.U.).
5. Will Clark (Mississippi State).


Dan Mullen (Ursinus ’94), 21-17 after three seasons in Starkville. He’s led the Bulldogs to back-to-back bowl games and three straight wins over the Rebels, cementing his place as the clear and undisputed face of the program – and, judging by how often his names pops up in connection with major job openings, Mullen has turned himself into one of the rising stars in his profession. Mississippi State marks his first head coaching job on any level. Mullen is most closely tied to Florida’s Urban Meyer, whom he served under for eight seasons, from 2001-8. If you count Mullen’s time as a graduate assistant at Notre Dame (1999-2000), when Meyer was the wide receivers coach, Mullen worked alongside Meyer for nearly the entirety of his F.B.S. assistant coaching career. His career as a position coach began in 2001, when Mullen was hired to coach the quarterbacks at Bowling Green (2001-2). Under his watch, former Bowling Green quarterback Josh Harris set several school passing records and a MAC record for most rushing yards by a quarterback in a single season. That individual success continued at Utah, where Mullen tutored Alex Smith to an all-American 2004 season and the No. 1 overall pick in the 2005 N.F.L. Draft. After the Utes finished 12-0 in that 2004 season, Mullen followed Meyer to Florida; he also took on offensive coordinator duties, his first coordinator position at any level. Though Meyer’s fingerprints were all over both the team’s game-planning and play-calling, Mullen deserves plenty of credit for the success of the Florida offense over his final two seasons. Mullen has also earned recognition for the job he did with Florida’s quarterbacks, not only in terms of Tim Tebow but also with Chris Leak, a more prototypical passer around whom Mullen tailored a more pass-heavy offense. Of course, Florida’s tremendous play over the his final four seasons with the program led to a pair of national championships (2006 and 2008). Any questions about whether Mullen could win where others had failed — winning at M.S.U. — have already been answered.

Players to watch

I didn’t like Tyler Russell as Mississippi State’s quarterback heading into last season, when the Bulldogs returned a senior starter in Chris Relf, but I like Russell today – I like the Russell who went from inexperienced underclassmen to battle-tested junior, the Russell who first fought off a challenge for the backup role and, by the end of last season, stood as the team’s best passing option. One thing Russell will have that Relf never did is security: he’s the unquestioned starter heading into September, and shouldn’t be looking over his shoulder if – or when – he makes an error at the center of Mullen’s offense. This will give Russell some added confidence, not to mention give this offense the sort of continuity it desperately needs from the quarterback position.

So Russell isn’t a great running threat; he’s not particularly fleet afoot, though he’ll surprise you at times, and certainly isn’t going to make defensive backs quiver when he gets outside the tackles, as did Relf. But Russell is going to make this offense more productive through the air, much like he did a season ago. The Bulldogs will also be more explosive: Russell averaged 8.0 yards per pass attempt last fall while Relf averaged 6.4 yards per throw, and also did a far better job limiting his turnovers – throwing one pick for every 33.3 attempts, which is outstanding.

Look for Russell to throw the ball around 300 times this fall, which would be the most by any quarterback during Mullen’s tenure. But the offense will retain the same feel, which does mean that Russell needs to keep defenses honest by giving M.S.U. some yardage in the running game. He can do this, gaining about 300 yards, even if he’s not the most SEC’s most dangerous running quarterback. While not a perfect fit for Mullen’s system – I do think that Mullen wants a bit more athleticism at quarterback – you acknowledge Russell’s ability as a passer and appreciate his progression as the Bulldogs’ clear starter during the spring; Mullen certainly does, as he does Russell’s experience and willingness to put in the work needed to become a competent starter in the SEC.

You also like the weapons at Russell’s disposal in the passing game, though it is time to recognize one fact: Chad Bumphis (25 receptions for 339 yards) is not an all-SEC receiver – and he’s not going to become Mississippi State’s version of Percy Harvin, the do-everything, defensive blueprint-altering, game-changing receiver Mullen used to such great effect while the coordinator at Florida. Instead, Bumphis is a nice complimentary receiver, one of several seasoned options at the position for M.S.U., and can be a big-play threat if not asked to shoulder the load as the team’s go-to option in the passing game.

He’s one of three returning starters at the position, all seniors: Bumphis, Arceto Clark (30 for 442) and Chris Smith (35 for 330). Bumphis is also one cog in what should one be the SEC’s deepest receiver corps, though not its most talented – Tennessee, Georgia and Texas A&M have more athleticism and proven production out wide. Joining this trio are senior Brandon Heavens (10 for 114), junior Sam Williams, sophomores Ricco Sanders (15 for 163) and Jameon Lewis (7 for 143) and redshirt freshman Joe Morrow, the latter the team’s most solidly built receiver – and one who could give this receiver corps a different look on third down and in the red zone. Another player to keep an eye on is sophomore Malcolm Johnson (11 for 206), who moves into Marcus Green’s shoes as Mississippi State’s starting tight end. While Johnson is not going to be an extra lineman in the running game, he can help give M.S.U. a productive presence over the middle of the field.

Vick Ballard’s meteoric two-year run through the SEC left a blazing track through this program’s record book and a very daunting hole on the depth chart. M.S.U. will look to replace his production with junior LaDarius Perkins (422 yards), who played wonderfully in a secondary role over the last two seasons. But now Perkins must occupy some big shoes, shouldering 190-plus carries, and he has yet to prove that he can handle the every-down load in the SEC. That’s a concern, but you like two things: Perkins’ ability to chew up yardage when called upon – even in the passing game, especially as a freshman – and the Bulldogs’ backup option, sophomore Nick Griffin (108), who can give this offense some smash to go with the starter’s speed and burst.

The big worry is that Mississippi State’s ability to convert in the red zone takes a serious nosedive without Ballard in the lineup. He was a touchdown machine, scoring 30 times over two years, and 21 of those scores came inside the 20-yard line. If Perkins can’t gain tough yards between the tackle down near the goal line, either M.S.U. needs Griffin to step up or Russell and this receiver corps to convert through the air. Right next to the offensive line, Mississippi State’s production in the red zone – or lack of production, if that’s the case – is the biggest issue facing this offense.

Mullen’s coaching staff remains the same for the second consecutive season. The only changes he’s made, in fact – and he’s made three heading into his fourth season – have come about out of necessity. After the 2010 season, for instance, M.S.U. lost c0-defensive coordinator Manny Diaz to the same position at Texas and wide receivers coach Mark Hudspeth to Louisiana-Lafayette. When it comes to replacing Diaz, the Bulldogs couldn’t have done much better than Geoff Collins, the former Florida International assistant who quickly gelled with a veteran and experienced staff to help M.S.U. make an impressive move forward defensively a season ago.

No, last year’s defense didn’t make any noticeable improvement in the general categories, allowing roughly the same amount of points and yards per game as in 2010. But that had everything to do with an inconsistent offense, one that ranked M.S.U. 116th nationally in time of possession – this defense was on the field for 970 plays, the 108th-most in the F.B.S., compared to 881 plays two years ago. Boiled down, this defense was substantially improved with Collins serving as the co-defensive coordinator, joining Chris Wilson: M.S.U. allowed only 4.7 yards per play, which ranked 13th nationally.

Combine last year’s defense with Mississippi State’s offense from 2010 and you have an SEC title contender. Can the Bulldogs put together another stout defensive attack without Fletcher Cox dominating play along the interior of the line? The answer to that question will decide the Bulldogs’ season; Cox was outstanding alone – really, really outstanding – but he also helped his fellow linemen by demanding attention from opposing offensive linemen. It’s obvious that without Cox, M.S.U. must need a more complete effort from its defensive front.

The spotlight now turns to senior Josh Boyd (51 tackles, 8.0 for loss, 4.5 sacks), who becomes the Bulldogs top tackle. He was one lineman who clearly benefited from playing alongside Cox; one year later, Boyd will need to continue collapsing the pocket while drawing double-teams, and it won’t be easy. He’ll be joined inside by sophomore Curtis Virges, who was impressive in a secondary role last fall, and by two linemen with some starting experience in senior Devin Jones and sophomore P.J. Jones. That pair can give M.S.U. a smaller look inside, perhaps on passing downs, though neither is going to do well at the point of attack.

The storylines up front center around Boyd’s ability to demand attention and the arrival of two incoming recruits, each of whom is viewed as an immediate-impact defender. The first is true freshman Quay Evans, who has already earned a role in the rotation at tackle. The second is JUCO transfer Denico Autry, who is locked into a starting role at end. If Autry can deliver – and he comes with some very high billing as an edge rusher – there’s every reason to think that M.S.U. is going to get far stronger play outside in 2012.

Sophomore Kaleb Eulls, a 13-game starter as a redshirt freshman, has already illustrated that he can give M.S.U. strong run support; he’ll grow into a greater presence on passing downs with added experienced and better technique. Senior Shea McCardell gives the Bulldogs a veteran in the rotation. Sophomore Preston Smith earned some snaps as a true freshman last fall, and redshirt freshman James Harris could be a nice weapon as a situational rusher. Keep close tabs on Autry – he could give M.S.U. another dimension up front if he translates his pass-rushing skills to the next level.

In terms of overall depth, this is the finest linebacker corps of Mullen’s tenure. All M.S.U. needs is one or two of the younger options to step forward during fall camp to solidify the rotation – oh, and M.S.U. needs to locate a starter in the middle. The competition is down to two linebackers, redshirt freshman Benardrick McKinney and sophomore Ferlando Bohanna, and the only thing these two share, outside of wonderful first names, is a troubling lack of experience.

Bohanna was the odds-on favorite to replace Brandon Wilson heading into the spring, but McKinney’s play in March and April evened the score – if it didn’t give McKinney the leg up heading into fall camp. What’s intriguing about this battle, outside of the fact that the winner should remain the starter for the next three or four seasons, is that M.S.U. could simply throw a wrench into the situation by moving senior Cameron Lawrence (123 tackles, 2.0 sacks, 2 interceptions) into the middle from the weak side. I get the impression that’s something Collins, Wilson and Mullen are loathe to do, seeing that Lawrence is an all-SEC performer at outside linebacker. The best option would be to start one of McKinney or Bohanna and flank him with Lawrence and junior Deaontae Skinner (69 tackles, 9.0 for loss), a returning starter on the strong side. This is a deep and talented group of linebackers.

The projected return of junior free safety Nickoe Whitley (34 tackles, 4 interceptions), who missed the final three games of last season with an Achilles tear, gives Mississippi State three returning starters in the secondary. Heading into the spring, I was interested to see if the Bulldogs would move Whitley over to strong safety, replacing Charles Mitchell; Whitley has a nose for the football, but he’s also one of the team’s biggest hitters, and as such could give M.S.U. an intimidation factor over the middle of the field.

You can’t fault this staff for keeping Whitley in his former role and promoting sophomore Dee Arrington into the starting lineup, but keep two things in mind: Whitley is not going to be as mobile as he was prior to his Achilles injury, so putting him closer to the box might have been a good idea, and Arrington, while gifted, did not see much time on defense as a true freshman.

Not since Fred Smoot has M.S.U. had a cornerback like Johnthan Banks (71 tackles, 3.0 sacks, 5 interceptions), a multiple-year starter who heads into his final season as an all-American candidate. He’s been opportunistic since his freshman season, when he burst onto the scene with a pair of interceptions against Tim Tebow and Florida, but Banks has greatly improved his technique and overall consistency over the last two seasons – turning into a far more well-rounded and dangerous cover cornerback as a result.

While the SEC is loaded with top-tier cornerbacks, looks for Banks to not only headline this defense but also slide into the national picture this fall, earning first-team all-conference honors and jostling for some postseason hardware. While he’s the stopper, M.S.U. could be really special at cornerback if senior Corey Broomfield can turn the page on an uneven junior season – he was battling a hand injury, to be fair – and regain the form that made him an all-conference contender as a freshman and sophomore.

To be blunt, there’s nothing very special about Mississippi State’s special teams – and that’s the first time all summer I’ve trotted out that tired line, by the way. The Bulldogs break in a new kicker in junior Brian Egan, who must do a better job than his predecessor on shorter kicks while also giving M.S.U. more a higher percentage of touchbacks on kickoffs. For M.S.U., as with other teams, the changed kickoff rules will be a huge bonus. The Bulldogs were surprisingly weak on returns last fall, though Bumphis has given this team some flash in the past. M.S.U. is solid on coverage, but nothing else about its special teams stands out.

Position battle(s) to watch

Offensive line Partly due to injuries, partly due to a complete and utter inability to locate a capable tackle on the blind side, the Bulldogs’ offensive front was a massive and inexplicable disappointment a season ago. While this line’s issues in pass protection could be tied back to the lack of consistency at left tackle, this group’s failure to consistently open up holes on the ground led to the offense’s lack of progression; the Bulldogs not only ran for 527 fewer yards than in 2010 with roughly the same cast of skill players but also failed to show up in each of the team’s last five SEC losses, highlighted by two humiliating performances against Alabama and Arkansas.

Once again, and for as long as Mullen runs the show, the line will dictate the ebb and flow of Mississippi State’s offense. All eyes will be on two players: Blaine Causell and Tobias Smith. The former takes over at left tackle on a permanent basis after doing so for four games last fall, a period that included two ugly wins over Louisiana Tech and U.A.B. and a pair of distressingly inept defeats to L.S.U. and Arkansas. Causell simply wasn’t ready for prime time as a rookie: he was forced into action after then-senior James Carmon injured his knee against Auburn, and was tentative, uneven and prone to both mental and physical missteps. One year later, he’ss looked at as anchor on the blind side – and must use last season’s sour showing as motivation for a vastly improved sophomore campaign.

Smith is expected to be ready for this coming season after injuring his knee in the loss to L.S.U. in September. If healthy, Smith can give the Bulldogs’ running game a major boost at right guard. He would solidify the line’s interior, joining the Bulldogs’ two returning full-time starters, junior Gabe Jackson — an all-SEC pick — at left guard and sophomore Dillon Day at center. But tackle play is a concern, obviously: Causell will start on the left side, but it’s probably too early to say if fellow sophomore Damien Robinson will get the nod on the strong side. Overall, M.S.U. will need several young players, like Robinson, Ben Beckwith, Dylan Holley and Charles Siddoway, to step into larger roles in August to help increase depth throughout the offensive front. This line could certainly make a huge improvement, should Causell improve and Smith remain healthy. But this group is again a question mark heading into the season opener.

Game(s) to watch

Mississippi State has a great chance at opening 7-0 – at being perfect, ranked very high in both polls, before heading to Alabama for a key SEC West tilt. Five of its first seven are clear wins; while Auburn and Tennessee are tough games, both come in Starkville. The Bulldogs’ last five games, on the other hand – or four of their last five, at least – would test any team in college football: at Alabama, home for Texas A&M, at L.S.U. and home for Arkansas. It’s not inconceivable that M.S.U. could lose all four, though it’s also possible that M.S.U. could get a split, if not steal three wins. Then the year ends with the Egg Bowl, which will find Mullen looking to tie McKeen for the best start in the rivalry in program history.

Season breakdown & prediction

In a nutshell With this team and this schedule, it would be very disappointing if Mullen can’t lead Mississippi State to an eight-win regular season. When it comes to the latter, this schedule, the Bulldogs couldn’t ask for more from the year’s opening seven games; anything less than 5-2 would be a substantial letdown, and with Auburn and Tennessee coming to Starkville, you could see M.S.U. burst out of the gate at 7-0 before encountering one of the toughest stretches in college football to cap the regular season. Being 7-0 at that point might deteriorate to 9-3 or 8-4 by year’s end, but the fast start would do more than just pave the way for the program’s finest regular season in more than a decade; it would also move the Bulldogs very high in both major polls, giving this team some national notoriety in a league whose storylines are often dominated by the same class of elite programs – Alabama, L.S.U., Georgia, Florida and the like.

So it’s vital that M.S.U. start strong. However, how the Bulldogs close from Alabama on will decide this season. Let’s start with this team’s strengths: Mississippi State has a deep wide receiver corps, albeit one that needs greater explosiveness from Bumphis and Clark, not to mention a breakthrough season from at least one of the younger targets, like Morrow, Sanders or Lewis; a nice pairing at running back; a veteran, experienced quarterback in Russell, who will be better as the year wears on; a very talented defensive line, even if Cox’s departure looms large; the best linebacker corps of Mullen’s tenure; and one of the nation’s most unheralded defensive backfields, a group led, fittingly enough, by one of the nation’s most unheralded defensive backs.

These strengths will get M.S.U. past the SEC’s bottom half and through its non-conference slate, the latter with ease, and will pave the way for an eight-win regular season. But the Bulldogs’ deficiencies will show up in color once this team turns to Alabama and company. The offensive line remains a question mark, and could be a larger concern is Causell stumbles over his second go-round in the starting lineup and Smith fails to regain his pre-injury form. The Bulldogs might encounter some issues in the red zone without Ballard; this offense was already average inside the 20 with Ballard, so it’s something worth watching as the running game transitions to Perkins and Griffin. While there’s talent up front on defense, the line will struggle if Boyd doesn’t deliver along the interior.

You see a picture here: M.S.U. is clearly good enough to win eight games during the regular season but not quite good enough to factor into the SEC West hunt. For now – and who knows if this will change at any point in the near future – M.S.U. remains behind Alabama, L.S.U. and Arkansas in its own division. But this program must not only accept this challenge but also its realities: Mississippi State can still be very successful as the fourth-best team in the West, but this involves taking care of business when it counts – by beating those teams in transition or with less talent, by making its West rivals work for victories and by making sure that when the dust clears, when the postseason begins, it isn’t backing into a bowl game with six wins. This is a better team than last year’s version, and you’ll see that in the standings.

Dream season The Bulldogs win seven straight to open the season before getting tripped up in Tuscaloosa. That loss is followed by a second loss in Baton Rouge two weeks later, but M.S.U. tops Arkansas and the Rebels – the Rebels by 49-10, let’s say – to head into the postseason at 10-2. This program has never won 10 or more games in the regular season.

Nightmare season M.S.U. gets tripped up by Auburn and Tennessee early, though it does head into Tuscaloosa at 5-2 overall. Then the bottom drops out: Alabama nets a win, as does Texas A&M, L.S.U. and Arkansas – and even Ole Miss, which notches an Egg Bowl win in Hugh Freeze’s debut season. Talk about a nightmare.

In case you were wondering

Where do Mississippi State fans congregate? A long list of Mississippi State football options. For message boards and recruiting Web sites, check out Bulldawg JunctionDawgs’ Bites and Six Pack Speak. As any M.S.U. fan can tell you, Brandon Marcello’s blog at The Jackson Clarion-Ledger and Brad Locke’s blog over at the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal are must-read stuff. You can also catch up on Mississippi State news with Locke and Marcello on Twitter. Additional blog coverage can be found at For Whom the Cowbell Tolls. If you must ask, the cowbell tolls for thee — and very loudly on third down.

Mississippi State’s all-name nominee OG Templeton Hardy.

Word Count

Through 94 teams 377,104.

Up Next

Who is No. 30? The head coach at tomorrow’s program graduated from the same high school as a right-handed pitcher who threw as many wild pitches in his career as another right-handed pitcher who lost 35 games in his rookie season.

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  1. Scott Wallace says:

    24 days to game day.

  2. Jack Morris says:

    University of Houston is next.

  3. Interesting says:

    The only non-AQ teams left are the predicted MAC champ and MWC champ.

    The lesser non-AQ conferences WAC, Sun Belt, and CUSA are all accounted for.

    Also interesting to note is that only the predicted Big East champ is left.

    So after the top 5 conferences (new “power” conferences), the next tier is MAC, Big East, and MWC.

    Followed by the last tier of the WAC, Sun Belt, and CUSA (WACUSunblet).

  4. WACUSunbelt says:


    Bottom Tier = WACUSunbelt

  5. David says:

    Adonis Terry lost 35 games in 1884, his rookie season, pitching for the Brooklyn Atlantics. In his 14-year career, he threw 206 wild pitches.

    In his 18-year career, Jack Morris threw 206 wild pitches, most of them while wearing a Tigers uniform. He graduated from Highland Park High School in St. Paul, MN.

    Houston head coach Tony Levine graduated from Highland Park.

  6. Beat you to it (again) says:



  7. David says:

    ah, but it wasn’t visible to me, so my work was “independently researched” :-)

  8. DotBone89 says:

    @ David: Does that make you Newton or Leibniz?

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