TCM: After years of toiling in ineptitude and general dismay as a Mississippi State fan, this season has been really weird to experience. Previous seasons and going to college in the Croom era has beaten a cautious nature into me; so much so that I have a hard time seeing the possibilities, even with this team. After MSU finished the first three game stretch and entered what started as a stretch against three top ten teams, I honestly didn't know what to expect. "Can we win even one?" was my honest thought, and I had truly prepared myself to be happy with 1-2 coming out of that. Now, here we sit just a day or two away from the final game of that stretch and I want to be 3-0. I feel like we have a chance to be 3-0. It's a really weird feeling to believe that you have a chance to win a game of this magnitude after years of expecting and then getting the 51-0 stompings from Florida or LSU or Alabama. People can talk all day about LSU being down or A&M being overrated at the time, but at some point don't you have to give at least SOME credit to MSU?
All in all, I'm just taking this season one game at a time. There's always a temptation that comes with success to start projecting wins further down the road, but I just want to take this week by week. Firstly for historical purposes; while we won't know until January how magical this season winds up, I'd hate to miss it because I was looking two to three games ahead. Secondly, this season is far from over. The ranking is cool and it's great, and I'm enjoying the high of seeing our names near the top, but there's more to be had. Right now, I'm just ready for Auburn. Do I hope I get to tell my grandkids about this season and how magical it was years down the road? Absolutely. But right now, we've got work to do if that dream is to be realized.
WMD: It's a little hard for me to comprehend that this is really happening. But at the same time, I'm not at all surprised at what this team is doing. It's a mix of emotions that's incredibly hard to quantify. I was a student at State from 2003-2006. That's right, the end of The Kang and the Croom Error. I grew up with the success of the 1990s JWS years. Jackie made us believe that we not only *could* have a winner at MSU, but that we *deserved* to have a winner. Then he let the program get away from him. Our administration, particularly one Larry Templeton, proceeded to make the worst hire in school history. For all the good The Kang did for us psychologically, the Croom Error undid virtually all of it. We were the laughingstock of the SEC. Everyone talks about Maine as being the low point, but for me, it was losing to a Katrina-depleted Tulane team a year later. I would go to games hoping we'd score, much less actually win. And with LT in charge, I had no hope that we'd ever fire Croom. But then Doc Foglesong came along. He ousted LT and hired Greg "Ninja" Byrne. And Byrne hired Dan Mullen.
I actually see a lot of similarities between JWS and Mullen. Their coaching styles are different. The Kang was the ultimate CEO style HC, whereas Mullen is much more hands on. Jackie's philosophy for winning was Defense, Field Position, and Special Teams. Mullen's philosophy is Defense, Explosive Offense, Field Position. But they are both excellent motivators. When we win, they give all the credit to the players. And when we lose, they take all the criticism. Players want to play for them and would run through walls for them. Where Jackie had to build the psyche of a beaten down MSU fan base from scratch, Mullen had to rebuild it from the foundation. They did it by owning Mississippi in recruiting and owning "Mississippi" on the field. They both understood that consistently beating your rival is one of the key foundations for a program to be successful long term. They both love to verbally jab "Mississippi." And most of all, they both understand that to win at MSU, you have to be more physical than everyone else. Running the football is the foundation for the offense. Both also made excellent DC hires, then got out of the DC's way. Perhaps most importantly, both engaged and united the fan base. They made sure we understood the importance of showing up every single week. And in return, they gave us a product to be proud of and that is fun to support.
The media attention we are getting boggles my mind. Sure, there are some doubters out there. There will always be a few. But in consecutive weeks we are hosting SEC Nation and Gameday. For the first time I can remember, we're playing the 230 CBS game with the A Team of CBS commentators in the booth. The only other times we've been on CBS, we would get their B Team. But what really blows my mind is the hype around one Dak Prescott. He is a legitimate Heisman candidate and the media can't stop talking about him. I've never seen the media gravitate towards an MSU player like this, and honestly, it's not something I could have ever imagined. And to see guys like Kirk Herbstreit, Mark May, Pat Forde, David Pollack, etc. talking about us as legitimate National Championship contenders blows my mind. Whatever happens Saturday night, this team will be talked about forever. They've made all of us believe that we really CAN win a championship at Mississippi State. Hail State!
Justin Sutton: To see what is going on this year is amazing, because it is uncharted waters for the Mississippi State Bulldogs. It's not that Mississippi State has not won the West. It has. It's not that Mississippi State hasn't stood on the precipice of a national championship. It has, and yes, both of these have occurred during our lifetimes. The difference is that this year, those possibilities seem more possible than ever before, and with that comes this feeling that if something big does not happen now, it will be that much tougher to watch happen as a fan.
To me, the big thing is just enjoying the moment. I remember going to Mississippi State football in 1999 and watching the team just pick up win after win after win in the most amazing fashion. It was so much fun, and then the Bulldogs had a few injuries and dropped back to back games on the road. It took the wind out of the sails of the season, but it still ended in an exciting way. The energy felt that season, especially in the Egg Bowl that year was just awesome, and that is coming back to Davis Wade Stadium now. No matter what happens from this point forward, fans have to try to bring that type of energy to really keep this great atmosphere alive on game days in Starkville.
A friend of mine on Facebook put up a post after the Texas A&M game about how awesome it was to see Mississippi State dominate Texas A&M because as a Mississippi State fan, she never stopped cheering for the team, even when she spent college going to the bloodbaths that occurred in 2001-2003. I had never really thought of it that way, but she was completely correct—fans that stayed true to this team through the first eight years of this century deserve to soak this in and enjoy it.
Barring injuries or anything catastrophic, 9-3 is really looking like the worst case scenario for this team now, and that would make it one of the most successful teams in school history. The funny thing about that is that it would
almost, probably feel disappointing now. To me, that should tell fans everything they need to know about how great this season has been.
No matter what happens, keep cheering and enjoy it. For this week—at least, and maybe much longer—Mississippi State fans have the No. 3 team in the country, a true Heisman contender at quarterback and the attention of the college football universe.
Reid Coker: It's amazing how far the football program has came in the last several years. The expectations were raised so much that the majority of fans would no longer be happy with just making a bowl game. I was beginning to wonder if we could ever take that next step and compete for a west championship. 2010 was a good year but still didn't put us among the elite of the SEC. The first half of 2012 gave us a glimor of hope, but that went downhill quickly.
Ending last season with 3 straight wins, which included an egg bowl victory and a blowout in the liberty bowl, was a huge factor in gaining momentum going into this season. I definitely wouldn't have predicted 5-0 to start the season. LSU is down and A&M still has problems on defense, but the way we dominated those two games says a lot. As long as everyone stays healthy there's no telling how far we could take this win streak. It's crazy to think that we're only one win away from being ranked #1 in the country. Who would have ever thought this was even possible?
What has surprised me the most is the amount of media coverage we have gotten the past couple of weeks. The whole world knows who Dak Prescott is, and maybe, just maybe, they know the difference now between State and Ole Miss (but probably not). It has often been said in the past that both teams in the State couldn't be successful at the same time, and here we are both ranked #3 in the country. I don't think either fan base is prepared to handle this much success all of a sudden. We're starting to see how Alabama and Auburn feel every year. No wonder the Iron Bowl is so intense.
These are the glory days of MSU football, and I couldn't be any luckier than getting to see this special season in my first year on campus. There is still a lot of work left to do, but I hope this success is not just a one year thing. If recruiting keeps improving at the same rate it has with this upcoming class, we can become a contender every year. The next challenge will be keeping our head coach. If we continue at this rate, a lot of schools will come calling. Scott Stricklin should do everything he can to hold on to Dan Mullen. He is without a doubt the best coach in Mississippi State's history.
TBB: Where do I even start? For the longest, MSU football has been the doormat of so many things SEC. I say that being a true fan no matter what. But as a fan, I must be honest, too. It's been tough. The late 1990s was fun but it was so short-lived. Plus, I was in high school at the time and didn't make many trips to Starkville. By the time I came to State (which was Jackie's final season) it was a joke. That season is remembered by a ridiculous blowout from Oregon, players giving away fake paper money at the Hunt Club, and a depressing Egg Bowl at the hands of Eli dismantling us in the rain at Davis Wade. I really liked Coach Croom. Yes, he and Templeton were stubborn but it was a learning process. After that, I lost a lot of faith in football. Rick Stansbury, Lawrence Roberts, Timmy Bowers, and Brandon Vincent became my love for years. My faith was semi-restored when Dan came in. "Spread the Fun" he said. And he has. It's been a small roller coaster but what we've seen and experienced the last month is so cool. FOR YEARS my wife and I have said, "Gah, think if we had a good quarterback." Now we do, and it is just so crazy. It's hard for me to explain how I feel and speak of games I've witnessed where I've left at half, but the times have a-changed. Can MSU continue this national success? Good question. Until then, I'm basking in the sun of Oktibbeha County.