MSU is 7-0. Right off the bat we know that is the 2nd best start in school history behind only 1999…and we’re facing a team who is also 7-0, so that at least tells us this is the kind of game State usually isn’t involved in.
Mississippi State has never won a national championship, nor have they ever gone into a bowl game in which they were in contention for one. The program’s only undefeated season was 10-0-1 in 1940, but they were ranked #11 going into the Orange Bowl, and finished #9 after a 14-7 win over #9 Georgetown…so we know there are no bowl games that could have had bigger implications.
State has only one SEC championship – 1941. You could make an argument that the Egg Bowl that year, a 6-0 win over #14 Ole Miss in Oxford was the biggest. Not only a rivalry game, but it was a defacto SEC Championship game as the Rebels were also 3-0-1 heading into the game. (State beat Alabama, who claims the national title that year, but it was in the 2nd game of the season and neither team was ranked.)
The MSU win over Alabama in 1980 is without a doubt the biggest win in school history, but was it the biggest game? The Bulldogs were unranked and let’s face it, no one really saw it coming. And while State had a great year in ’80, they were 6-2 heading into that game, so there was no big time implications for both teams.
Actually, the bigger game with Alabama was in 1981. State was 6-1 on the year with their only loss to Missouri from the Big 8. They were ranked #7 and Alabama #8 with a 6-1-1 record. Both teams were undefeated in SEC play going in. The Tide would go on to win 13-10 in Tuscaloosa and end up sharing the conference title with Georgia (6-0). (Mildly interesting fact, Southern Miss beat MSU and tied Bama in ’81, but lost to a 4-6 Louisville team when they were 8-0-1 and ranked #9.)
In 1998 Mississippi State won the West and played in the SEC Championship Game vs. Tennessee. They had a 14-10 lead in the 4th quarter but ended up losing by 10 to the eventual national champions.
Finally, 1999. State was undefeated going in with its best start in school history (8-0). They were ranked #8 and 7-2 Alabama was #11. The Crimson Tide won the game 19-7. They went on to win the SEC.
The answer to the title of this is probably ‘no’…but it could be a ‘maybe’. I feel like I’d have to be a real prisoner of the moment to say ‘yes’, but perhaps not. I don’t think the 1941 Egg Bowl was quite as hyped as games are now, but when you consider what it was: an all-Mississippi SEC championship, that was a big game. 1981 and 1999 have to be considered just as big as 2012 when it comes to a SEC championship. And then 1998 features a game in which MSU was actually playing for the title…so that would have to be considered tied with the ’41 Egg Bowl for the biggest.
But when you consider that both Alabama and Mississippi State are undefeated, top 11 teams, and there are major SEC West, SEC championship and national championship implications, maybe this is the biggest? In 1941 there weren’t any national ramifications (although maybe there should have been). In 1998, Tennessee was #1, but MSU was #23 – so the SEC was on the line for both teams but not a national championship. Same for 1999, MSU was in contention nationally, but not Bama.
So the answer is yes and no, so I’ll go with maybe. It has a ton of potential implications, but it isn’t the game where State is playing for a championship. It’s big, no doubt. One of the biggest games State has ever been involved in. Win it and a few more and we’ll know for sure if MSU is playing in the biggest game in program history.