Great Debate: Mississippi State Will Step Back in 2015


One of my favorite things about sports is the way so many of the things we see on the field and court can often be debated. The college games are often up for more debate because there are so many schools and teams. So each week, I plan to debate the opposing sides of part of Mississippi State Athletics.

Once college football came to an end after Ohio State won the National Championship game, the talking heads wanted to start figuring out where college football teams would be in 2015. It’s always fun to do predictions, and I plan to do mine during Spring Practice like I did last year. These are always interesting because it gives you an idea about the perception of where a school is and what people think they can accomplish. So what do people think about Mississippi State in 2015?

People think 2014 was a fluke.

The Argument
The early perception about Mississippi State is that they will take a step back towards the bottom of the SEC West because of the number of starters they are losing in 2015. The Bulldogs will have only seven starters coming back, the fewest among team in the SEC. The prevailing thought is Mississippi State benefited from a veteran, experienced group in 2014. The success of a team with mostly low rated prospects was only capable of making up the talent gap with a wealth of experience. The Bleacher Report has the Bulldogs at 10th in the SEC, also the last team in the West. Saturday Down South has the Bulldogs at number 11. The only poll I have seen that still thinks the Bulldogs won’t go too far back is at CBS. They have Mississippi State at 13th in the country.

The Counter Argument
Mississippi State is losing a lot of starters and a lot of experience. That can’t be denied. The amount of experience being lost on both sides of the ball varies however. Let’s start with the stronger of the two units, the offense.

The part of the offense that took the biggest hit was the offensive line. They are losing three starters from last year’s team. This would be a much bigger concern to me had the Bulldogs not signed Martinas Rankin out of Junior College. He is one of the highest rated offensive lineman and will contribute to the 2015 team immediately. They still have two other holes to fill, but the reserves got enough playing time that they should be able to transition in smoothly.

One of the listed starters that is leaving is Jameon Lewis. Lewis was a great receiver, but he was so hampered by injuries the Bulldogs did not rely on him as heavily as many of us thought they would in 2014. The good news is the Bulldogs have three viable options to replace Lewis. Jamoral Graham, Gabe Myles, and JUCO transfer Donald Gray should keep the slot receiver position ticking along.

The last big need that the Bulldogs have to replace is 2nd Team All SEC Running Back Josh Robinson. As big of a loss as he is, the Bulldogs have two players that were rated higher than Robinson about to step in. Ashton Shumpert and Aeris Williams were both rated as four star players coming out of high school and shouldn’t have any problems matching Robinson’s production.

People don’t often say Mississippi State reloads, but on offense, they are in 2015.

Defensively is another story. The Bulldogs are losing virtually everyone when it comes to starters on the defensive side of the ball. So how much will it hurt? It’s really difficult to say. The front 7 should still be good next year. Chris Jones is technically not a starter. He will be the anchor of next year’s defensive line. Look for Beniquez Brown, Richie Brown, and Gerri Green to step up at linebacker and have big years. Do we know that will happen? No, but the talent is there for them to do so. The secondary will be the weak link. How much production will those guys give the big guys up front will be key. If they can’t do any better than last year, who knows where this team will go.

My take
Despite the fact that many think Mississippi State is going to head further down the standings next season, most seem to think they still have enough to get to a bowl. But a lot of people think they are getting there with a 6-6 or 7-5 record. The reason all of these rankings get called “Way Too Early” is because no one is actually looking at each game and trying to determine who will win each one. All they are doing is looking at rosters and see who is and isn’t coming back. Mississippi State should win all of their nonconference games. If you were trying to pencil in wins, the Bulldogs will likely be favored against LSU, Kentucky, and Ole Miss since the Egg Bowl is at home. Let’s just assume those games they win. I think Dak Prescott is going to be the difference in at least two games they aren’t supposed to win. If he does, that would take them to 9-3.

I don’t think people who are putting this out there about the Bulldogs are way off base, but I also think they aren’t looking closely enough at the rosters to make a good call. Mississippi State has some talent to fill in the holes that will be created in 2015. If the defense can step up and be just a little bit better than they were in 2014, then I don’t see any reason to believe the Bulldogs won’t duplicate their 2014 success.