The Mississippi State Bulldogs entered Saturday's matchup with the Texas A&M Aggies with a ranking of No. 12 in the AP Poll and of No. 14 in the Amway Coaches' Poll. After the Bulldogs thumped the visitors from College Station 48-31, there is no doubt that a victory over the No. 6 team in the country should boost the Bulldogs in the polls. What is left to be answered is how much of a boost will Mississippi State receive come Sunday morning.
For whatever reason, most polls end up working as a bit of a monolithic system. Rarely do people just blow up their voting order week to week causing massive upheaval in the polls. So while a team such as Mississippi State can post a big win, unless that win is either so big it forces attention or occurs when several other teams lose, not a whole lot usually comes of it.
This week, the perfect storm happened for Mississippi State. Their win over Texas A&M was so dominant that it cannot be ignored,and several team ranked above Mississippi State lost: (AP/Coaches) No.3/1 Alabama, No.2/4 Oregon, No.4/3 Oklahoma, and No.6/7 Texas A&M, which means 60% of the top-five went down. Also of the teams ranked above Mississippi State, a few had a bit of a subpar showing. No.9/8 Notre Dame needed last second heroics to beat Stanford, and No.7/6 Baylor picked up a ho-hum sort of win over Texas. On the flip side, two teams, No.5/5 Auburn and No.11/11 Ole Miss picked up solid victories over the weekend. Also,
one other team, No. 8/9 UCLA has not kicked off as of this writing lost, and No.1/2 Florida State picked up an expected victory over Wake Forest. Also, currently in action, No.10/10 Michigan State looks to be in control against No.19/17 Nebraska.
In the context of these games, the two schools from Mississippi, the Bulldogs and Ole Miss, easily had the wins of the higher quality this weekend. So, how much will it help the teams? I think more than people think. With growing sentiment that the SEC West is the strongest division in college football in 2014 and maybe ever, wins in that division have to count for something. At some point, the Ole Miss win over Alabama, and the Mississippi State wins over LSU and Texas A&M have to mean more than teams knocking off unranked opponents. If voters start to do that now, the Bulldogs and Rebels stand a chance to leap over several teams such as Notre Dame, UCLA and Baylor.
In addition to the quality of victories for a team, it will be important to see how the voters treat one-loss teams. So far, only Michigan State has been treated as bit of a "protected" one-loss team in the fact that they are the only one to be ahead of any of the undefeated teams in the top-15. In a perfect world, a team with a victory over a team with an equivilant or worse record would be ranked higher than said team.
Also, if rankings existed in a vacuum, how much more would voters be willing to mix up their votes during the season?
Under these ideas, if I had a vote, my top-ten would look like this tomorrow:
1) Auburn, 2) Mississippi State, 3) Ole Miss, 4) Florida State, 5) Baylor,
6) UCLA (assuming a win), 7) Notre Dame, 8) Alabama, 9) Oregon, 10) Oklahoma.
Why am I so sold on Auburn and Mississippi State? Overall, they look like the most solid teams. Mississippi State has not really had a game in doubt—unless you count a Hail Mary attempt in the LSU game, and fair if you do—and that has to count for something. If Texas A&M had done what Mississippi State had done so far, they would be No.1 in the rankings; this has to be a logo-blind experience. While Auburn was forced to survive a game, they managed to do so, and they have looked good this year. Ole Miss for that matter has looked shaky at times, but the Rebels have responded in crunch time. Right now, it would be hard to convince me that they are not all three at least worthy of top-five consideration.
Will the polls look like that tomorrow? I highly doubt it. However, I do not see a way that Mississippi State finds itself any lower than No. 7 in the polls. For that matter, I would not be surprised to see Auburn, Ole Miss, and Mississippi State in the top-five tomorrow.
If I had to guess, and this is just purely for fun, I think the Bulldogs fall in the rankings between in the range of Nos. 4-6, which means Auburn at Mississippi State could be the first ever top-5 matchup in Starkville.
Here are some of your early thoughts:
@mstatesports Hopefully 5 but probably 7
— Ron Duckworth (@rondog7777) October 5, 2014
@mstatesports I hope top five but prob like 6 or 7
— Allen Lundy (@GulfCoastDawg) October 5, 2014