So what do we as State fans make of our beloved football program now that the carnage from this past Saturday has stopped? Well, let's take a look and see.
Are we meeting expectations this year or aren't we? I guess it all depends on how you look at it. People asked me at the beginning of the year how I thought my alma mater would do this year, and I told them 8-4. We'd lose to either Auburn or Tennessee, Bama, LSU, and Arkansas. That sounded pretty reasonable. I think most State fans were kind of in line with what I was thinking, and if 8-4 was your expectation, then that is still very reachable.
However, now that we see Arkansas is a shell of who we thought they were, did you switch your expectations to 10-2 or 11-1? I switched mine slightly. Going into the Bama game, someone I went to high school with asked me how I thought we would finish up on Facebook, and I responded with 9-3. I thought we would lose to Bama, LSU, and I told him, one of the other three, I just didn't know which one. If I am right, we just found out. 9-3 is still very attainable, but if you were hoping for anything better than that, you're probably out of luck.
How Good Are We?
Not as good as most State fans thought before the Bama game, and not as bad as most think we are after the A&M game. The Bama game was palatable simply because they were Bama. This last game? This one hurt. I think most of us thought that we could beat A&M coming into the year, and even going into this game, but to lose in such horrible fashion was tough to swallow. Dan Mullen was right to take all the blame for their performance. The guys simply looked unprepared and uninterested. By the time they decided to show up, we we were down 24-0 at the half. Every team typically has a clunker throughout the course of a season, and this was ours. You pray that when you have them, that it is against an opponent that you are far superior to, so you can overcome it, not against one of the best offenses in the country with one of the most electrifying players at quarterback. In their SEC Power Rankings, CBS Sports said State has been revealed to be a good team, but not a great team. I think that is a pretty good summary.
Where Do We Stand In The SEC?
We are squarely a middle of the pack team at this point. We can be competitive against the big boys, and we can handle the lesser competition. Some will be upset to face that reality, but in three and a half years, that's probably right on schedule considering how bad the program was when Mullen got here.
What Scares Me About The Rest Of The Season?
The fact that we could possibly end 7-5. I don't think that will happen, but we can only hope that LSU is really disinterested in playing the rest of this year now that their national title hopes are over, otherwise we have no chance against them. As bad as Arkansas has been, they can still put a lot of points on the board in a hurry. Ole Miss is probably the most improved team in the country. There's not a gimme on the schedule. I don't think we will finish 7-5, but it isn't out of the realm of possibility.
Our run defense is a joke. Denico Autry has not lived up to all the hype, Josh Boyd doesn't seem to be capable of much now that Fletcher Cox is gone, and Cameron Lawrence has disappeared at times. We get very little pressure on the quarterback, and as long as you can pound the ball on the ground, other teams stand a real good chance of beating us.
What Gives Me Hope?
Tyler Russell. He wasn't great in either of the last two games, but he was getting pounded almost the entire game. He stands in there and tries to make plays and seems to be a good leader on the field. He never lets this team quit. He has lots of room to improve, but he is on his way.
We have a stable of backs that use a variety of running styles. I would like us to figure out a way to get Ladarrius Perkins the ball in the open field, but when we need bruisers, we go to Griffin or Robinson. When we want speed, we have Perkins and Milton.
Despite the large number of yards given up Saturday, the secondary has lived up to their hype. A lot of the yards came against our nickel packages and linebackers Saturday. We still present match up problems for a lot of receivers.
What Do We Need For The Rest Of The Season?
While 10-2 would be nice, I think 9-3 is almost a must. It's all about creating positive momentum towards next season at this point. After starting 7-0, you can do that at 9-3. At 8-4, you have a bit of a sour taste in your mouth, and at 7-5, well, that makes you question the entire season all together.
7-2 is not a bad season, and if it weren't for the fact that we got hammered so badly, we probably wouldn't be as upset as so many are today. I think our football program has made a lot of improvement, but we still have a lot more to go. There might come a time when we can say a 7-2 season is a bad season, but we aren't there yet. Let's finish what we started and then evaluate what the season was like.