Before MSU's week one game against Southern Miss, I wrote a piece detailing the epic fall of USM's football program over the course of the last two years and why State was going to mercilessly whip them that coming Saturday. It wasn't exactly complimentary of USM and it definitely wasn't my best work, though, in my defense, MSU pummeled USM 49-0, but that's beside the point.
To my surprise, there was a large amount of response from our readers about this article. Some thought it was funny, others thought it was over the line, but there was a particular set of comments that were very concerning to me: apathetic comments. These responses revealed that an attitude of "State has been mediocre for so long, it's not like we can actually be good now" was clearly still gripping a sizable portion of MSU's fan base, despite five relatively successful seasons in a row coming into 2014. One comment in particular from Facebook took me back to the point that I wrote a separate article responding to what I saw. Here's the comment:
This all seems totally ridiculous to say now that Mississippi State is number one and controls its own destiny for a bid in the SEC Championship and potentially a national championship. But, there were plenty of people who felt similar to this person before the season began and if everything that has transpired this year doesn't change their way of thinking, I'm not sure what will.
No program has ever been consistently championship-caliber when their fan base has come to the conclusion that a 6-6 season with a win in a rivalry game and a low-level bowl game bid is the best possible outcome. It's simply can't be done.
Earlier this season, we mocked Florida because their fans were calling for Will Muschamp to get fired five games into the season, but it's that uncompromising discontent that took the Gators to two national championship victories a few years ago.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying we should want to fire a coach who wins eight games every year. But even before the season began, Dan Mullen could be considered the best coach State has ever had and the fact that people still felt like the individual who left the comment above is astounding.
Thankfully, all that is changing now. Confidence and a sense of bravado has returned to the MSU faithful and hopefully it's here to stay.
For so long State fans liked to harken back to the repeated times when the Bulldogs' dreams were crushed to prove that MSU wasn't capable of anything better than mediocrity. A sense of inferiority was ingrained in the culture. Whether it was a result of Ole Miss' fans unsubstantiated feelings of superiority that they enjoy telling State fans about or the years of terrible football that we've had to endure at times, it was easy to feel like the Bulldogs would always be coming in second. But it's impossible to feel like your team is going to come in second when they're planted firmly in first place. So, why concentrate on the darkness behind when there's a sunrise on the horizon right in front of you?
Slowly but surely the shades are being lifted and State fans are seeing the light. Yes, it's important to take it one game at a time but it's also important to take in how truly special this season is and hope for a championship instead of thinking of ways the Bulldogs can let you down again like they have in the past. And this may be the most controversial topic of all, but it's okay to brag about MSU now. I guarantee you're not going to bring bad luck to them by doing it. You root for arguably the best team in college football and nobody can take that away from you.
Going into Saturday's game, just let go of every bit of the old MSU fan in you. This is a new Mississippi State football program. And I'm as guilty as anyone of thinking that we could never truly break through to be one of the best teams in the SEC West but we're here now. This week's game against Alabama is a chance for MSU to reach heights that it's never known. It's an opportunity many programs never get to have.
This team has given us no reason to doubt them and Saturday provides not only a chance to redefine the MSU football program, but the MSU football fan as well. Embrace it, enjoy it, and please, don't ever, ever, ever, go back to thinking like the guy that left that Facebook comment.