It's a bit of an unfair comparison: Mullen's first four years on the job to Jackie Sherill's 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th years on the job. But, that's what I'm here to do. For anyone currently questioning whether or not Dan Mullen has what it takes, perhaps your answer is in this article...
Similarities: 3 bowl games (2-1 record), one of the years had a fast start (8-0 in '99, 7-0 in '12)
Differences: JWS won the SEC West in 1998 and had a 10-win season in 1999; a year with a losing record for Mullen in 2009 (5-7). But the biggest difference: the S-E-C. Today's SEC is much stronger than it was back then. Let's take a look.
Here are the overall records of each team in the West during the 1997-2000 stretch, and also over the last four years.
Jackie's record against the West during this time was 11-9, Mullen's was 5-15. If you take Alabama and LSU out of the equation (because as you can see they've been utterly dominant), Jackie is 7-5 and Mullen is 5-8.
The non-conference games are a wash; the difference between the two is the SEC. So here is how MSU's SEC schedule broke down from 97-00 (the W/L is what that team did vs. MSU)...
|'97 record||vs. MSU||'98 record||vs. MSU||'99 record||vs. MSU||'00 record||vs. MSU|
|Vanderbilt||2-9||L, 42-0||5-6||L, 42-14|
|South Carolina||5-6||L, 37-17||1-10||L, 38-0||0-11||L, 17-0||8-4||W, 23-19|
|Kentucky||5-6||L, 35-27||7-5||W, 37-35||6-6||L, 23-22||2-9||L, 35-17|
|Alabama||4-7||L, 32-20||7-5||L, 26-14||10-3||W, 19-7||3-8||L, 29-7|
|Arkansas||4-7||W, 17-7||9-3||L, 22-21||8-4||W, 14-9||6-6||W, 17-10|
|Auburn||10-3||L, 20-0||3-8||L, 38-21||5-6||L, 18-16||9-4||L, 17-10|
|LSU||9-3||W, 24-9||4-7||W, 41-6||3-8||L, 17-16||8-5||W, 45-38|
|Ole Miss||8-4||W, 15-14||7-5||L, 28-6||8-4||L, 23-20||7-5||W, 45-30|
As mentioned above, State was 20-13 during this stretch including the loss in the 1998 SEC Championship Game to Tennessee, 24-14. So during the above regular season games Sherill was 20-12 (.625). The wins were against teams with a combined record of 104-127 (.450). The losses were against teams with a combined record of 89-56 (.614).
Now on to Mullen's SEC schedule..
|'09 record||vs. MSU||'10 record||vs. MSU||'11 record||vs. MSU||'12 record||vs. MSU|
|Georgia||6-7||L, 24-12||10-4||W, 24-10|
|Florida||13-1||W, 29-19||8-5||L, 10-7|
|South Carolina||11-2||W, 14-12|
|Kentucky||7-6||L, 31-24||6-7||L, 24-17||5-7||L, 28-16||2-10||L, 27-14|
|Alabama||14-0||W, 31-3||10-3||W, 30-10||12-1||W, 24-7||13-1||W, 38-7|
|Auburn||8-5||W, 49-24||14-0||W, 17-14||8-5||W, 41-34||3-9||L, 28-10|
|Arkansas||8-5||W, 42-21||10-3||W, 38-31||11-2||W, 44-17||4-8||L, 45-14|
|LSU||9-4||W, 30-26||11-2||W, 29-7||13-1||W, 19-6||10-3||W, 37-17|
|Ole Miss||9-4||L, 41-27||4-8||L, 31-23||2-10||L, 31-3||7-6||W, 41-24|
|Texas A&M||11-2||W, 38-13|
As mentioned above, State was 13-19 (.406) during this stretch. The wins were against teams with a combined record of 63-98 (.391). The losses were against teams with a combined record of 203-50 (.802).
|SEC winning pct||Opponent win pct||opp. pct in wins||opp. pct in losses|
As I said in the opening, this is an unfair comparison to make because Jackie had six years to build the program before his run that I'm comparing to Mullen's first four years as head coach. But I think this comparison shows the kind of gauntlet Mullen has had to go through, and how he has done pretty well - especially considering it is the beginning of his tenure.
I definitely think the 1997-2000 teams were better than what we've seen over the last four years, and the opponent's winning percentage in wins is a justification of that. In more subjective terms, our defense was just better back then, period.
But look at that winning percentage in losses: .802! Opponent winning percentage is also much higher as well. Mullen has faced a much tougher road and that speaks to the difference in records between the two time periods.
I think this data demonstrates Coach Mullen has done a great job so far and is not far off from the glory days we all think back to every now and again.