Justin and I don't seem to agree on every topic, but one thing I do agree with him on is 2013 being the year, and not 2012. I could be very wrong here; if the offensive line comes together and plays great this year we could be looking at a 10-2 season, maybe even better - who knows? That being said, the chance for a HUGE season seems much more likely in 2013.
Players: State should have a senior QB in Tyler Russell plus a bit more experienced backup in Dak Prescott (or he may have overtaken Russell I don't know). The entire offensive line and running back corps will be back for '13. The receivers lose four seniors, but they are all replaceable with Joe Morrow, Jameon Lewis, Ricco Sanders, etc. coming into the fold. Tight end should be fine with Malcolm Johnson and Brandon Hill emerging as juniors. The defensive line will be stacked despite the loss of Josh Boyd, LB as well despite losing Cam Lawrence. Cornerback is the obvious blow here, but with Will Redmond and others, hopefully this won't be too big of a concern. At safety, Nickoe Whitley returns while Dee Arrington and Jay Hughes have a year under their belt.
Schedule: MSU does NOT have to travel to Alabama or LSU. When you plan to be good, that is the best scenario...get them at home and pray. Road games would include Auburn, Tennessee, Texas A&M and Arkansas. All of those are winnable to a degree. Home games would be Alabama, LSU, Kentucky and Ole Miss.
So let's assume that you agree with me: 2013 is the year for Mississippi State and Dan Mullen to make its mark on the SEC. Would it be better to have a 2012 record in the 7-5 range, or 9-3?
So many times I have been a fan of a team, college or professional, that has exceeded expectations in a particular year. Preface: I am a Falcons fan. Take the Falcons in 2008 - they had a rookie QB and weren't expected to do anything, but they made the playoffs as a wild card team. I was just happy with that, and figured the playoff experience would benefit the '09 team which was the one to put the marbles on. But that '09 team didn't even make the playoffs. The 2010 team did, but they lost in their first playoff game, and so did the 2011 team. In 2004, Mike Vick led the Falcons to the NFC Championship Game and I thought the same thing then - it's great they've already gotten this far, but the best is yet to come. Ha, yeah right.
My point is this: Sometimes a team that overachieves one year will lead to underachievement the next. I think half of this is due to the probability that the overachieving team had a lack of injuries, fortunate schedule, won close games, etc. and the underachieving team didn't get such breaks. The other half of the equation is the mental toughness that was exhibited in the overachieving year is lost in the underachieving year....and that's my main point here.
I am painting with a pretty broad stroke here, but if MSU were to go 9-3, or even 10-2 in 2012, don't you think that could lead to the type of attitude or sentiment among the players and/or coaches that they've got it figured out? If the Bulldogs were to go 10-3 with a Capitol One Bowl victory, would they seek to work as hard as they might after an 8-5 year, and a Chick-Fil-A Bowl loss? If 2013 is the year we win the West, would it be better to sacrifice a couple of games in 2012 to achieve that goal rather than have two 9-3 seasons? (Yeah, I would love to have two 9-3 seasons too, I'm just sayin')
I don't think this is a certain law, that if the Dawgs win 10 games this year they can't win the West next year, but I do think a 10-win season might decrease the odds. I'm not going to pull against MSU if we find ourselves 8-2 in November, but I won't be disappointed with an 8-4 or 7-5 regular season. A 6-6 season, however, will likely leave me a bit restless.