Oct 11, 2014; Starkville, MS, USA; Mississippi State Bulldogs running back Josh Robinson (13) celebrates with the Mississippi State Bulldogs fans after the game at Davis Wade Stadium. Mississippi State Bulldogs defeated the Auburn Tigers 38-23. Mandatory Credit: Spruce Derden-USA TODAY Sports
When the staff of Maroon & White Nation took a poll to determine the top ten MSU sports moments of 2014, there was a runaway choice for the #1 moment: Being ranked as the #1 football team in America. And in all likelihood, that is probably the #1 moment for almost every fan reading this article. In the case of Mississippi State’s time at #1, there was an extra bonus. In addition to being as the top team by both the Associated Press and the USA Today Coaches Poll, the Bulldogs were also the very first team to be ranked #1 in the inaugural College Football Playoff poll.
The Bulldogs’ rise to #1 was nothing short of meteoric. In fact it was the fastest rise from unranked to #1 in the history of both polls. After beginning the season unranked, the Bulldogs first jumped into the poll after their 34-29 road win over #8 LSU, checking in at #14 in the AP poll. The LSU win would be the first of three consecutive wins over teams ranked in the top ten, which by the way was our #2 moment of 2014.
Following the win over LSU and an open date, the Bulldogs returning home, crushing sixth ranked Texas A&M 48-31 and bolting to #3 in the following week’s poll, setting up a showdown with #2 Auburn. State’s 38-23 win over the Tigers catapulted the Bulldogs to #1 in both polls, a spot they held for five weeks until losing to Alabama.
As regular readers of Maroon & White Nation know, I am the old man of the staff and a lifetime Bulldog fan, born and raised in Starkville. I’ve seen a lot of bad football in my lifetime. For example, there was 1988, the infamous “Tech and Ten” season when MSU defeated Louisiana Tech in the season opener, and then dropped ten straight to finish 1-10.
Go back a couple of decades to 1969 and you’ll find a 73-0 loss to Houston. One year earlier was a 0-8-2 season. And in the intervening years from the mid 60’s to as late as 2008, there have been many disappointing losses and a lot of bad football played.
Anyone remember syndicated writer Steve Harvey’s “Bottom Ten” feature? It was a parody of the top ten, but instead featured the worst teams in college football at the time. Mississippi State was mentioned numerous times over the years, along by the way, with Ole Miss, who had meager success in the 70’s and 80’s. In fact, Harvey routinely combined the two teams and their records into “Ole Miss State” and gave them a single ranking.
To go from that frame of reference to suddenly finding your team ranked #1 in the nation made the experience just that much more surreal. And even though the Bulldogs ultimately lost their chance to be a part of the first national championship playoff and possibly end the season as #1, the thrill of the moment was not diminished. It was the first time in the history of the program that the Bulldogs have ever been ranked #1. And without a doubt, that five week reign at #1 clearly ranks as the top moment in Bulldog sports for 2014.