MSU Mythbusting: Mullen Can’t Beat a Good Team


Sep 14, 2013; Auburn, AL, USA; Mississippi State Bulldogs head coach Dan Mullen calls a timeout during the second half against the Auburn Tigers at Jordan Hare Stadium. The Tigers beat the Bulldogs 24-20. Mandatory Credit: John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

Over the course of the next five days, I want to look at some things regarding the athletic programs at Mississippi State. I then plan to put them to the Mythbusters test. If you’ve never seen the show on Discovery, they always test the myth and then determine if it is confirmed, plausible, or busted. We will do the same for the myths of Mississippi State. We will do 2 for basketball, 2 for football, and one for baseball.

We all love Dan Mullen. He has done a lot of wonderful things for our football program. That doesn’t mean the guy is perfect. In his five years at the helm, he has led the Bulldogs to four straight bowls and winning records. We have never gone to four straight bowls in the history of our program. This is only the third time at Mississippi State the school has gone four straight years with a winning record. To say that Dan Mullen hasn’t done a lot of good things here at State is silly. But it’s also silly to say that he doesn’t have to prove himself any further. The biggest criticism of Dan Mullen is that he can’t beat a good team. What does the evidence say?

Teams That Finished with a Winning Record in FBS

Quantifying a good team can be difficult. You have to have some kind of standard if you are going to test things, and make them as scientific as possible, which it may be silly to attempt, I am at least trying to do that when talking about Mississippi State football. Our standard of a good team is going to be teams that finish the season with a winning record in FBS. The good news is that Dan Mullen has seven victories over schools that meet this criteria. The bad news? He has 26 losses against teams that meet that criteria. That’s a .225 winning percentage. That’s not very good.

Record Against Teams Ranked in the Top 25

When we take it a step further, and put his record against teams that are ranked, it gets worse. Mullen has two wins against ranked opponents: 2009 against Ole Miss and 2010 against Florida. His record against Top 25 teams is 2-22 and has lost 16 straight games to ranked opponents. Once again, not a pretty stat.

The Verdict: Busted. I am basing this off the show Mythbusters, and if they can prove something has happened, no matter how rare or unlikely, then the myth is busted. He has a few wins against what we would call good opponents, so you can’t argue that he can’t. What you can argue is that he hasn’t done it very well, because he simply hasn’t.

I write all this because you will see some people say that Dan Mullen will enter this season on the hot seat. I don’t agree with that, but the reason it will be said is because Mullen has made Mississippi State into a team that is more competitive, but not as competitive as you might think they should be for a coach entering his sixth year at a program. The good news is that narratives can change. 2014 will be the first year that Dan Mullen has a team stocked full of players that fit exactly into the roles that he wants. The absolute worst I can see this Bulldog team going next year will be 7-5. That would get the team to a bowl and make some people happy, but as Mullen has elevated the floor of the program, more and more of the fans are growing tired of just simply getting to a bowl. Taking the next step and getting 8, 9, or 10 wins will be expected this year. I honestly believe we will.