I've been pretty adamant about the fact that MSU is in the process of building a program, and it will take time to do. Scott Stricklin has said the best way to build an ultra successful football program is to go to bowl games each year. I agree. Now we've got three in a row, and the resulting recruiting classes seem to be taking shape, which should, in turn, result in even better on-the-field results. (How many times can I say 'result'?)
Last summer I suggested that 2013 would be the year for MSU to compete for the SEC West. Well, I hadn't seen the schedule yet. And I didn't know Texas A&M would be who they are, or Ole Miss would bounce back like they did. By the same token, I guess, you could say Arkansas and Auburn I didn't know about either, but is there anyone who believes they won't be back quickly?
As of right now, the schedule looks really, really hard. Oklahoma State, at Auburn, LSU. The last 5 games: at South Carolina, at Texas A&M, vs. Alabama, at Arkansas, vs. Ole Miss. Yikes. I take back that we may compete for the West next year. I'll just take a bowl game, any bowl game.
That's not to say 2013's team won't be better than 2012's. I think it will be - and for all the same reasons as I wrote about last summer. But that schedule is brutal. Bru-tal.
So when can we expect to compete for the West?
Seniors leaving from previous year: only 10 major contributors that will graduate...and one of them is a punter. Compare that with 13-14 this year (depending on who you consider a major contributor) and 12-13 after 2011. So not as much will be lost.
Senior leadership: guys like Blaine Clausell, Dillon Day, Nick Griffin, Kaleb Eulls, Malcolm Johnson, Matthew Wells, etc.
Recruiting classes making up this team: 2010 (could be as many as 18 fifth year seniors if Michael Carr completes his comeback), 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014.
Schedule: I don't know for sure, but we know Southern will be the first game, opening up the new stadium expansion. Likely to be at LSU, vs. Auburn, at Bama, vs. UPig, at Ole Miss, vs. A&M, vs./at UK, at Tennessee?
Verdict: Not yet. With those 2010 and 2011 classes being relied on for veteran leadership, and having to go to Alabama and LSU. I don't think so.
Seniors leaving from previous year: it's hard to tell this far out, but I anticipate 18-19 major contributors that will graduate, so a lot.
Senior leadership: guys like Dak Prescott, Quay Evans, Nick James, Cedric Jiles, Justin Malone, Benardrick McKinney, Joe Morrow, Josh Robinson, etc.
Recruiting classes making up this team: 2011 (could be as many as 12 fifth year seniors), 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015.
Schedule: I don't know for sure, but we know MSU will go to Southern among other non-BCS games. Likely to be vs. LSU, at Auburn, vs. Bama, at UPig, vs. Ole Miss, at A&M, vs/at UK, vs/at Vanderbilt?
Verdict: I like this team a lot aside from all the senior being lost from the 2014 team. Dak Prescott as a 5th year senior and all the talent of the four recruiting classes behind him. Think about that defense around this time; D-line: Quay Evans, Nick James, Chris Jones, A.J. Jefferson, etc.; Linebackers: Benardrick McKinney, Richie Brown, Beniquez Brown, etc.; Secondary: Will Redmond, Tavese Calhoun, Cedric Jiles, Kivon Coman, etc.
Plus the schedule which has Bama and LSU coming to Starkville as well as Ole Miss. If there's a year, perhaps this will be it.
2016 and Beyond
It's hard to say what the future could hold this far out. But if MSU can continue to go to bowl games and line together excellent recruiting classes, 2016 and the years to come could be special. But right now we have no idea who would quarterback the '16 team as there is no one else on the roster or has signed a letter of intent.
We'll see what happens, but I look for a couple of good years, and be patient, that breakout may just come in 2015 (along with hoverboards).