With the final weekend of the college football season now upon us, we've hit the time for rivalry games and coaching rumors, and with that, Mississippi State fans find themselves in the familiar position of hearing Dan Mullen's name floated around for head coaching openings.
Earlier this week, talk heated up that Mullen has interest in the not yet officially open head coaching position at Virginia. Some other rumors have also linked Dan Mullen to Virginia Tech. At other times, some have mentioned Mullen heading to Southern California. Without a doubt, should the Bulldogs win Saturday, his name will be mentioned more and more.
This much is for certain: If the Bulldogs win Saturday, and Mullen's agent does not have a contract paying at least $4.5 million a year on the table for him Monday or Tuesday, Mullen should look for a new agent.
The question remains, would Mullen leave Mississippi State? The easy way to answer is with a yes or no, but as in most things in life, the answer is more a "it depends."
When looking at jobs at schools that would not be considered on par with Mississippi State, which might sound odd to those who look at more than the last decade of college football, Mullen would have to ask himself if he could capture lightning in a bottle again as he did in Starkville. Virginia fits this description. Taking a look at the Cavaliers football history, they have a program similar to that of the Bulldogs. A few bowl appearances here and there. A coach in Al Groh who had a solid if not spectacular run (think Jackie Sherrill), followed by a coach that had one good year and struggled in all of the rest in Mike London.
Mullen would have to wonder could he pull Virginia to a level that the program has not really seen much of in the last 25 years if ever. He made magic happen in Starkville, but would doing it twice happen? Of course, turning around a team in the ACC might be easier than in the SEC West, so he might think it is possible.
Virginia Tech might be a more intriguing opening for Mullen should there be mutual interest. The Hokies have a solid football pedigree since Frank Beamer built the program. The team played for the national championship over a decade ago against Florida State. Also in contrast to Mississippi State, media and football prognosticators tend to give Virginia Tech the benefit of the doubt heading into seasons while not doing the same for Mississippi State.
Mullen has recruited well in Starkville, and he has won there. Could he do more, faster, in Blacksburg?
While the move to Virginia Tech would be less shocking than a move to Virginia, Bulldog fans might be best to worry about the unexpected. Could a team like Southern California make a serious play at Mullen? If so, could he turn down such an opportunity? College football is also known to see coaches leave teams when no one expects it.
If Bill Snyder left Kansas State would Mullen consider a move to the Big 12. If somehow a big name coach such as Bob Stoops or Brian Kelly got lured from their schools unexpectedly, would Mullen answer their call if it came. My hunch on both would be a yes, especially Notre Dame, a school at which Mullen has ties. Let's not even get into what could happen inside the SEC.
Recent history at Mississippi State might give Mullen cause for concern. The similarities between 1999 and 2000 are pretty uncanny to 2014 and 2015. We all know what happened in 2001 in Starkville. Could Mullen be concerned that is around the corner in 2016?
For his part, Dan has handled the press well. You can see how he has answered questions about his future here. At the end of the day, odds lean to Mullen staying in Starkville in 2016. However, if he leaves, don't be surprised. With a win Saturday, his coaching stock might not climb higher, at least in the near future.