How many times have you heard a State fan utter the words, "we always do better when they pick us last". Well, let's put that to the test. I took the most popular preseason magazines: Athlon, Lindy's, Phil Steele, Sports Illustrated and The Sporting News and complied a list since 1995 (the year Phil Steele started his magazine) on where they ranked MSU and where we actually ended up.
|Actual Finish||Avg predicted finish||Athlon||Lindys||Phil Steele||Street & Smith||Sporting News|
|1995, 6th (1-7)||3.8||3||4||4||3||5|
|1996, 4th (3-5)||5||5||5||4||6||5|
|1997, T-3rd (4-4)||5||4||5||5||6||5|
|1998, T-1st (6-2)||4.2||6||6||2||5||2|
|1999, 2nd (6-2)||3.8||6||4||2||2||5|
|2000, T-3rd (4-4)||4.4||4||4||5||3||6|
|2001, 6th (2-6)||1.8||1||1||4||1||2|
|2002, 6th (0-8)||5.8||6||6||5||6||6|
|2003, 6th (1-7)||6||6||6||6||6||6|
|2004, 6th (2-6)||5.8||6||6||5||6||6|
|2005, T-5 (1-7)||5.2||5||5||5||6||5|
|2006, 6th (1-7)||6||6||6||6||6||6|
|2007, T-4 (4-4)||5.6||6||6||6||5||5|
|2008, T-4 (2-6)||4.5||4||4||5||-||5|
|2009, T-4 (3-5)||6||6||6||6||-||6|
|2010, 5th (4-4)||5.5||6||5||5||-||6|
|2011, 5th (2-6)||4||4||4||4||-||4|
|2012, 4th (4-4)||5.25||6||6||4||-||5|
*The Sporting News bought Street & Smith in 2008.
As for the question, does State do better when the 'experts' pick them to do bad?
In years the average predicted finish was 5th or worse, MSU has finished better than 5th five times, but equal to or worse six times.
In the years the average predicted finish was better than 5th, MSU has done worse than predicted three out of seven times.
The year that stands out is obviously 1998 when Athlon and Lindys both picked MSU to finish last and we won the West. Then in 1999 Athlon did the same thing and we finished 2nd. You have to note Phil Steele's accuracy in the late 90s in predicting us to do well, and then in 2001 he was the only one who saw a fall.
Phil Steele: 6th (tied with Auburn)
Sporting News: 7th
There is no doubt Mississippi State isn't expected to do much. Although this looks like it could be a year like 2010 when the West is just incredibly strong. State was picked 5th by Lindys and Phil Steele that year and despite ending the year with a 9-4 record and #15 in the nation we were still 5th in the West.
In conclusion, I don't really think there's much to the notion of MSU always doing better when they are picked lower. We don't show much improvement when we're picked to be in the bottom, and we don't do that much worse when picked closer to the top. It's just those couple of years in the late 90s everyone remembers.