This has become a common question among the Mississippi State faithful. With a growing divide among the fan base over expectations and defining success, bowl appearances have become a consistent talking point. The side that is mostly satisfied with where Mississippi State is will point to bowl games and history as a reason that things are fine, while the side that is unsatisfied will point to the major changes in the bowl structure of today. Here is how the realities have changed over the years.
Mississippi State has played in 17 bowl games in it’s history. Dan Mullen has led Mississippi State to three of those games. For concision and easily available information, I am going to focus on the last 50 years — and will not include now-defunct bowl games due to difficulty in research.
- In 1963, Paul Davis led a victory in the Liberty Bowl. At the time, there were only 8 Bowl Games: Rose, Orange, Sugar, Sun, Cotton, Gator, Citrus (Cap 1), and Liberty Bowls. That’s 16 of 53 teams (30%).
- In 1974, Bob Tyler led a victory in the Sun Bowl. At the time, there were only 10 Bowl Games: The above plus the Peach(Chick Fil-A) and Fiesta Bowls. That’s 20 of 51 teams (39%).
- In 1981, Emory Bellard led a victory in the Hall-of-Fame (Outback) Bowl. At the time, there were only 13 Bowl Games: The above plus the Hall-of-Fame (Outback), Independence, and Holiday Bowls. That’s 26 of 136 teams (19%).
- In 1991, Jackie Sherrill led a loss in the Liberty Bowl. At the time, there were only 15 Bowl Games: The above plus the Copper (Buffalo Wild Wings) and Tangerine (Russell Athletics) Bowls. That’s 30 of 107 teams (28%).
- In 2000, Jackie Sherrill led a win in the Independence Bowl. At the time, there were 21 Bowl Games: The above plus the Las Vegas, Alamo, Motor City (Little Caesars), Humanitarian (Famous Idaho Potato), Music City, and GMAC (Go Daddy) Bowls. That’s 42 of 116 teams (36%).
- In 2007, Sylvester Croom led a win in the Liberty Bowl. At the time, there were 31 Bowl Games: The above plus the BCS Championship, New Orleans, Fight Hunger, Hawaii, Belk, Armed Forces, Poinsettia, Texas, BBVA Compass, and New Mexico Bowls. That’s 62 of 119 teams (52%).
- In 2012, Dan Mullen led a loss in the Gator Bowl. At that time, there were 35 Bowl Games: The above plus the Military, Beef O’ Brady’s, Pinstripe, and Heart of Dallas Bowls. That’s 70 of 124 teams (56%).
Starting in 2014, there are expected to be 39 Bowl Games: The above plus the Bahamas, Boca Raton, Camellia, and Miami Beach Bowls. That’s 78 of 125 FBS teams (62%).
In addition, the 12th game was permanently added in 2006 allowing teams to go to bowl games with six losses.
Regardless of which side of the fence you fall, it’s obvious that going to bowl games today are not the same standard that they were in the past.