In his fourth year, do State fans expect high water marks or Mullen will be placed on the hot seat? Some people think so. What are the reasonable expectations for Mullen to remain off the hot seat, get another contract extension, or even a raise? After a highly successful 2010 and a somewhat disappointing 2011, will year four determine what we can expect over the course of the future with Dan Mullen as head coach?
Last week I did a statistical analysis to determine what type of teams Mullen has been capable of beating based on his first three years. My determination was that he has done exceedingly well at beating who he is supposed to, and has won enough against teams he isn't to be a 8-9 win program every year.
In year four, what does Mullen need to accomplish to assure us he has the program headed for great things? What will keep us happy? What will place him on the hot seat?
In last week's post, I came to the conclusion that State will go 8-4 this season. I used all outside data and no personal opinion to come to that conclusion, but I think I'll go ahead and make it my prediction based on my belief in the formula. If that is what happens, I think it places Bulldog Nation in the happy category. If Mullen is able to go 8-4 in 2012 he would be at least 4-4 in the SEC, and with 6 SEC West games now it would assure the 'never beaten anyone in the West except Ole Miss' would go away. Of course, the never beaten Alabama, Auburn, Arkansas and LSU could still exist. Nevertheless, 8-4 in Starkville is a record fans would be very happy about.
8-4 would keep everyone happy and likely make way for another contract extension for Mullen, but it would be the expected. While there's nothing wrong with meeting expectations would State fans feel a little restless if the upper echelon West teams still appear as a L on the record? I kind of doubt it. As I've said before, 2013 is the year for MSU to make a run at a championship.
Of course, anything over 8-4 would have State fans jumping for joy and clamoring to raise Mullen's salary to a gazillion dollars. But what about 7-5, or 6-6? Would another appearance in a lower-tier bowl game satisfy the fans? Will there be 30,000 maroon-clad folks headed to the Liberty Bowl? At what point does the excitement about just another bowl game wear off? I'm not sure about the answer to that last one but I think 6-6 or 7-5 will still leave Mullen in the good graces of Scott Stricklin and MSU fans.
What if the unthinkable occurs - a losing record? Well, then he'd be on the hot seat. Not fired though. Mullen would have to embarrass the program or go 1-11 to get fired this year.
The big question going forward is: are we on the right track towards a championship? By that I mean winning the West and competing for the SEC Championship, and in turn, a national championship. That may sound crazy to even talk about, but if you don't have long term goals then what do you have?
Mullen has been able to redshirt a lot of players and the team is finally gaining the valuable depth that is coveted, and needed to compete with the big boys. I'm not saying we are there yet, but it appears as though State is closing the gap. Is this real or imagined? That is what we will find out in 2012. Will State be able to upset Arkansas, or Auburn, or beat Tennessee by 10+ points? Will they be able to do something to prove they are on par with the 2nd tier of the SEC...because that is where Bulldog fans believe we are, right?
It's silly to discuss a coach's job status when it's not even in question, I know. But I still think it's important to figure out what we are looking for going into a given season. Whether it is hanging with LSU and Alabama until the final minute or getting an upset or two, Mullen and Co. will need to do something to prove to us that he is on the right track towards the ultimate goal: a SEC Championship.