Coming off of a 7-6 season last year that saw the Mississippi State Bulldogs open with a disappointing performance against Oklahoma State but end with a thrashing of Rice in the Liberty Bowl, hopes run high for the Bulldogs to put together one of the best seasons in Mississippi State football history in 2014. With many important players on both sides of the ball returning for the 2014 season, the team has the talent to put together a strong season. In addition to the talent, the Bulldogs have a schedule that lends itself to success in 2014.
|August 30||Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles||Starkville||6:30 pm||SEC Network|
|September 6||UAB Blazers||Starkville||1:00 pm||FSN|
|September 13||South Alabama Jaguars||Ladd-Peebles Stadium (Mobile, AL)||3:00 pm||ESPNews|
|September 20||LSU Tigers||Tiger Stadium (Baton Rouge, LA)||TBA||TBA|
|October 4||Texas A&M Aggies||Starkville||TBA||TBA|
|October 11||Auburn Tigers||Starkville||TBA||TBA|
|October 25||Kentucky Wildcats||Commonwealth Stadium (Lexington, KY)||TBA||TBA|
|November 1||Arkansas Razorbacks||Starkville||TBA||TBA|
|November 8||UT Martin Skyhawks||Starkville (Homecoming)||TBA||TBA|
|November 15||Alabama Crimson Tide||Bryant-Denny Stadium (Tuscaloosa, AL)||TBA||TBA|
|November 22||Vanderbilt Commodores||Starkville||TBA||TBA|
|November 29||Ole Miss Rebels||Vaught-Hemingway Stadium (Oxford, MS)||TBA||TBA|
A quick look at the schedule shows that it is one that sets up for a fast start for the Mississippi State Bulldogs. This might bring back thoughts to the fast start of 2012 that ended with a thud, but the Bulldogs will be tested much earlier this season, and should a 7-0 start come from it, the Bulldogs will be regarded as one of the top teams in not only the SEC, but in the nation.
Mississippi State should cruise through the three opening games of the season. Southern Miss comes into the opening contest having only picked up one victory in the last two seasons. That lone win came against UAB in the final game of 2013. The Blazers, the second opponent for Mississippi State this season, won a grand total of two games last season. The toughest opponent of the first three games could be South Alabama. The Jaguars, who have been transitioning to FBS play, finished last season 6-6. The Bulldogs will be the biggest opponent to come to Ladd-Peebles Stadium, so Mississippi State might face a fired up crowd on the road.
After that game, business will pick up for the Bulldogs as they jump into SEC play against the LSU Tigers. Mississippi State has not defeated the Tigers since a tilt in 1999, and the Bulldogs have only had a handful of close encounters with the Tigers since that time.
The game against LSU will provide a major platform for players such as Dak Prescott, and should the Bulldogs get a win on the road, it could springboard Mississippi State to one of the top seasons in the history of the school. Even if the Bulldogs do not get a win there, their season could still be strong as they get a bye week and then host Texas A&M and Auburn in Starkville.
In order to have the nine or ten win season that many fans are hoping for, the Bulldogs have to go 2-1 during that stretch of games at a minimum. Anything less, and the Bulldogs will look more like an eight win team, even though a nine win season would still be alive.
Mississippi State picks up a bit of breather after this three game stretch with games against Kentucky, Arkansas, and UT Martin. All three should be comfortable wins for the Bulldogs. After this stretch, Mississippi State will have another chance to notch a huge victory as the Bulldogs travel to Tuscaloosa to take on the Crimson Tide.
The Bulldogs end the season by hosting Vanderbilt, a team that will be interesting to watch now that James Franklin has left Nashville, and by traveling to Oxford.
The matchup with Ole Miss could be one of the few Battles for the Golden Egg that have two ranked foes in the contest. The Rebels should come into the matchup at 8-3 or 7-4 at worst, and the Bulldogs should have the same or better record in the game. Both teams could be playing with hopes of top-half finish in the SEC West, and those hopes could come down to the results of this game.
While hopes for an SEC championship birth may be premature for the 2014 season, Mississippi State has the potential to have one of the best seasons in school history, and if counting the bowl game at the end of the season, the Bulldogs have a chance to have a rare ten-win season.
In order to see if that is happening, it may be best to watch the Mississippi State season in quarters. After the first three games of the season, Mississippi State should stand at 3-0. Anything less than that will be a disappointment. The second quarter of the season should be the most challenging with games at LSU before hosting Texas A&M and Auburn. If this is to truly be a special season, the Bulldogs should be no worse than 5-1 after this stretch, but 4-2 could still end to a special season as well. The third quarter of the season should bring three more wins and bowl eligibility as Kentucky, Arkansas, and UT Martin should fall to the Bulldogs, making Mississippi State either 8-1, 7-2, or disappointingly, 6-3. The final quarter of the season will feature a game that Mississippi State will enter as underdogs (Alabama), should enter as favorites (Vanderbilt), and a toss-up rivalry game (Ole Miss). Again, anything less than 2-1 will be a disappointment for Mississippi State. Should 2-1 happen, the Bulldogs should be 10-2 or 8-4 at worst. If Mississippi State finishes 10-2 or better, an eleventh win in a bowl game (or the procurement of that win already) would mark the first time the Bulldogs snagged eleven wins in a season.
The schedule also has a few quirks in it this year. The Bulldogs play Arkansas about three weeks earlier this season than in the past. The Bulldogs also do not play an SEC game until their fourth game of the year. Often times, the Bulldogs play an SEC game in the first two games of the season. The Commodores took Arkansas's spot as the traditional pre-Ole Miss game opponent.
Lock-It Up Win: While there looks to be at least six sure fire wins on the schedule—USM, UAB, South Alabama, Kentucky, Arkansas, and UT Martin—none look as sure as the game against the Skyhawks.
The team Mississippi State will upset: I'm not convinced that Texas A&M will actually be an upset by the time that game is played, so I am staying away from the Aggies. The following game against Auburn is the one. The Tigers should enter the game at 4-1 or 5-0 (maybe 3-2 at worst, which make this pick null and void). The week before, the Tigers host LSU in what has been a pretty tough matchup over the years. Mississippi State and Auburn tend to play close contests against each other, and with this game being in Starkville, the Bulldogs will pull out the win.
Heartbreaker of the year: A win on the road at LSU may prove to be too much. This will be a heartbreaker because the Bulldogs will have played well and stand at 3-0. They will play well against LSU as well, but come up just short on the road.
The winner of the Egg Bowl will be: Mississippi State, by double digits.
Bowl Game: One in Florida on New Years Day