The stakes have never been higher for Mississippi State.
The last time MSU was ranked in the AP top ten was October 24, 1999, almost exactly 15 years ago. State has been ranked in the AP top five only one time in its history and that happened this past Sunday. The Bulldogs have been an absolute buzzsaw in their last two games. They have a serious Heisman contender at quarterback, a great running back, a talented stable of receivers, and one of the most dominant defenses in America. They are the definition of a complete team. After two straight weeks of crushing top 10 opponents, State not only has its highest AP ranking ever but for the first time since Jackie Sherrill was walking the sidelines, they have the attention of the entire college football world.
But this moment is different from anything Jackie Sherrill ever dealt with at MSU. College football is a different game now. It's true that MSU won the SEC West in 1998 under Sherrill but with three losses during the regular season that year, they basically backed into an SEC West title. When the Bulldogs played #1 Tennessee in the SEC Championship game, they had no real hopes for a shot at a national title.
And that's why this is the most important week in the history of MSU's football program. Set aside the fact that the Bulldogs are ranked third and that College Gameday will be in Starkville. This week is bigger than the AP poll and Kirk Herbstreit. With a win, this team will have a very realistic shot at an SEC Championship and a spot in the college football playoff.
With all eyes on Starkville at 2:30 CST on Saturday, the Bulldogs will have a chance to shed the perception that they are a perpetually middling SEC West team. The shadow that Ole Miss has cast on MSU for so long will be completely thrown away. MSU will not only be the best team in the state of Mississippi, they will be the best team in the best division of the best conference in all of college football.
The most difficult part of State's schedule will be behind them after playing Auburn and the school up north did everyone a huge favor by knocking Alabama off their throne, effectively throwing open the door for another SEC West team to win the division. This is make or break and the Bulldogs must capitalize.
This is a chance to prove everyone wrong. A chance to prove that a national powerhouse can come from a town in Mississippi with a population of 24,000. A chance to show the nation just how loud 63,000 cowbells ringing can be.
A chance to do something that no other Bulldog team has ever done.
Very few teams beat a single top ten team in a season and State might beat three... in a row. If they can complete the top ten win trifecta, for the rest of the season the Bulldogs will be feared and respected like so many fans have always hoped they would be.
Those who were too young or who just didn't get to experience the late 90's glory days of MSU football will finally know the warm glow of cheering for an elite SEC football team. Students at MSU will look back on this season and say "I was in school THAT year. THE year." 2014 will be special, forever ingrained in the annals of Mississippi State lore.
So, when you're walking into Davis Wade Stadium on Saturday, cherish it. We're already in rarefied air. There are 125 other fan bases that wish their schools were in MSU's position. No matter how much we may have the natural tendency to it, this is not a time to think about how MSU can ruin their season. This is a time to believe in how awesome this team can truly be.They have a serious opportunity to make a run at an SEC Championship which would give them a very real chance at a national championship. And that's not preseason speculation or wishful thinking, that's just the truth.
We may be witnessing the greatest team to ever wear maroon and white and we can't take that lightly. So, have a big party at your house for the game with all your friends and neighbors. Go to College Gameday, paint your body, yell like a maniac, and drink straight from a bottle of Jim Beam at 7 AM. Heck, sit at home doing nothing but just do whatever you need to do to make the most out of this week. This might just be a one hundred year flood or it could be the beginning of a dynasty, either way it should be appreciated to the fullest extent by every MSU fan starting right now.