Examining the Doubt in Mississippi State


Sep 20, 2014; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; Mississippi State Bulldogs defensive back Taveze Calhoun (23) talks with LSU Tigers wide receiver Malachi Dupre (15) following the game at Tiger Stadium. Mississippi State defeated LSU 34-29. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Mississippi State beat Arkansas by one touchdown, and trailed for much of the game. This has led to many people claiming that Mississippi State is showing weaknesses and cracks in the armor. Almost everyone thinks at least one, and probably two losses are coming to Mississippi State, mostly due to the Bulldogs’ performance against the Razorbacks.

The interesting aspect to this is that in the same breath, Arkansas will be praised for their toughness and tenacity. Almost everyone continues to say that Arkansas is eventually going to get an SEC win, it’s just a matter of who it will be against. This is a terrible contradiction.

I understand that part of the reason that Mississippi State is being doubted is due to the less than stellar play they showed when they were in Lexington the week before they played Arkansas. I get that. But many seem to place more of the emphasis of their doubt on the Arkansas game. How can Arkansas be a team that is playing well, but just not winning, and at the same time be a team that Mississippi State should have handled easily? The Bulldogs aren’t the only team to experience this phenomenon. Alabama went through much of the same hand wringing earlier this year when they escaped Fayetteville with a one point victory.

Doubt is everywhere for the Bulldogs. Search the Internet for College Football Bowl Projections, and you won’t find many that have confidence in Mississippi State remaining in the Top 4 of the College Football Playoff Rankings. Most of them have the Bulldogs playing in one of the other bowls the College Football Playoff Committee assigns, but not in the Top 4. You can find an occasional one here and there, but they are few and far between

So why do people cast so much doubt on the Bulldogs? It’s not necessarily the close victories the Bulldogs have over the Kentucky Wildcats and Arkansas Razorbacks. The real issue is something I talked about way back in the summer. Back then, I talked about how the Ole Miss Rebels were going to be lauded as one of the best teams in the country and none of it would actually come from their university. And sure enough, when all the preseason rankings, All SEC Teams, and predictions came out, Ole Miss was in the mix. And to the credit of the Ole Miss program, they have lived up to a lot of that hype. They have two losses, but they were both by the thinnest of margins. But as much as people wanted to prop up Ole Miss to fit their narratives and storylines, those same people need Mississippi State to start losing.

It’s been a nice story that Mississippi State has used under recruited players to turn their team that went 7-6 a year ago into the number 1 ranked team in the country. But that flies in the face of what so many people make their living off of and spend the bulk of their time researching. The recruiting services and recruiting websites are big business, and they have made a name for themselves by accurately predicting who tomorrow’s stars of college football will be today. They point to the the numbers that often show how the only way to get Championships is to get four and five star players. Mississippi State is bucking that trend this year by showing that if you scout the smaller and more rural schools, you can find diamonds in the rough that no one else has found up until this point. They are also showing that if you find the players that have room on their frames to strengthen their bodies, and have the heart and work ethic to make themselves the best players possible, then some of the perceived limitations can be overcome.

When you go back and look at the recruiting classes of both Mississippi State and Ole Miss from 2013, there is a clear difference how both of those classes were perceived. Most thought Mississippi State had a good class, but Ole Miss had recruited stars. They were going to make waves with the guys they brought in with that class. All the websites and experts knew that Hugh Freeze was building a monster because he was recruiting the daylights out of everybody else. Meanwhile Mississippi State was supposed to stay in the land of mediocrity because Dan Mullen can’t get the blue chip players. Well Dan Mullen is proving everyone wrong this year. Some of the people in the recruiting world will give Dan Mullen a nice pat on the back for doing what he has done this year with 2 and 3 star players, but the last thing those same people need to see is him hoisting the National Championship Trophy this season. Then everything they do isn’t such a sure thing. That’s also why you see everyone basically pushing Dan Mullen out the door to Florida. If Dan Mullen could make this type of run sustainable at Mississippi State, then there isn’t any reason to believe that it couldn’t be done at other schools. Mullen would recruit higher rated classes at Florida by default. They have more players and talent to choose from, and he would automatically get higher rated classes from that fact alone. The last thing recruiting experts need to see is Dan Mullen making Mississippi State into a perennial contender with 2 and 3 star players, so they all need the Bulldogs to start losing.

So don’t be surprised when everyone predicts Mississippi State to lose to both Alabama and Ole Miss. Those schools have recruited higher rated classes. The experts need the Tide and Rebels to win to validate what they do.