After a 3-3 start to the 2023 Mississippi State football season, Zach Arnett’s Mississippi State Bulldogs are near the bottom of the SEC according to ESPN’s FPI.
It’s clear that the Mississippi State Bulldogs needed to get a win on Saturday and that’s exactly what they did. But that doesn’t mean the Mississippi State football team is in a good place right now.
If you ask the latest ESPN Football Power Index rankings for SEC teams, the Miss. State Bulldogs are just about at the bottom of the Southeastern Conference.
And that’s not where Arnett or the Bulldogs want to be.
Mississippi State football off to rough start in 2023
Halfway through the 2023 Mississippi State football season, the Bulldogs are off to a 3-3 start under Arnett, a first year head coach for MSU. And while they have gotten some wins against non-conference foes (a blowout over Southeastern Louisiana, a nail biter against Arizona, and then a frustrating matchup against Western Michigan), the Bulldogs are 0-3 in SEC play.
There were high hopes for this MSU football program this season.
The Bulldogs lost some key pieces on the defensive side of things, but a number of valuable offensive starts returned for MSU, including quarterback Will Rogers and running back Woody Marks.
And despite the fact that the Bulldogs were built to run the Air Raid, Miss. State moved away from what the roster was assembled to operate and has found some notable inconsistencies on offense over the past few weeks.
Add in the defensive struggles that comes with losing a number of starters and having a first year defensive coordinator and that results in blowout losses to the LSU Tigers and Alabama Crimson Tide as well as an infuriating loss to South Carolina.
And those are big reasons for why the Bulldogs are struggling in the SEC’s FPI rankings:
Full FPI rankings for SEC football teams after week 6:
Here are the full FPI rankings for SEC teams:
- Ole Miss
- Texas A&M
- South Carolina
- Mississippi State
Alright, that’s fine and all, but how do the Bulldogs look nationally? Well, Mississippi State ranks at No. 50 in the country in ESPN’s FPI rankings.
That’s not good!
MSU’s projected win total unlikely to meet Mississippi State football fan expectations
There’s a very real chance that the Bulldogs won’t make it to a bowl game. A very real chance. With the season halfway wrapped up, FPI is projecting the Bulldogs to finish with just five wins this season.
The Bulldogs’ chances of making it to six wins? Well, ESPN’s FPI projects that the Bulldogs have a 42 percent chance of making it there.
That’s a huge drop off when you consider that this team won nine games a season ago.
With Will Rogers still on the roster, a wide receiver corps that brought back Tulu Griffin, Zavion Thomas, Jaden Walley, Justin Robinson, and with a loaded running back room that featured Woody Marks at the top, there’s no real reason for MSU to be struggling quite this much.
And yet, here we are.
Tough road ahead for Arnett and the MSU Bulldogs
There are still plenty of games left to play, but things will be difficult for the Mississippi State football team. After the bye week this week, Mississippi State goes on the road to Arkansas, hits the road to face the Auburn Tigers, comes back home to host the Kentucky Wildcats, and then goes back on the road to meet Texas A&M.
That won’t be fun. Oh, and by the way, Mississippi State isn’t favored in any of those games based on FPI projections.
There’s a chance that the Bulldogs could turn things around, but it seems unlikely given the slate of games for MSU up ahead. After those four fun games, Miss. State returns home for two more contests: Southern Miss and then Ole Miss.
There’s a very real chance that Mississippi State wins just one of its remaining six games on its schedule.
Can Mississippi State football get back on track?
There’s still time left for MSU to improve its standing in the conference and FPI rankings. There’s still time for Zach Arnett to grow as a head coach and get some unlikely wins. And if the Bulldogs do start stringing wins together, then we’re having a very different conversation.
But here’s what ESPN’s FPI is projecting in terms of win percentages for the Bulldogs against the remaining teams on the 2023 Mississippi State football schedule:
- MSU 34.7 percent vs. Arkansas
- MSU 29.8 percent vs. Auburn
- MSU 46.7 percent vs. Kentucky
- MSU 14.1 percent vs. A&M
- MSU 90.8 percent vs. USM
- MSU 17.8 percent vs. Ole Miss
And while there’s technically still time for this Mississippi State football season to be something of a success if there’s a miraculous turnaround in the second half of the season, the early returns don’t exactly give a ton of reasons to be confident in the direction the Bulldogs are headed.
But if MSU comes out of the bye week and shocks Arkansas on the road, then we’re able to have a slightly different conversation here.
The rest of this schedule is important for Arnett and the Bulldogs, especially as fans continue to grow restless with the head coach of the Miss. State football program. If MSU can go 3-0 in October, some pressure will be released.
That just doesn’t seem all that likely right now.