We looked at the schedule and ranked Mississippi State's 2015 SEC games by difficulty. There were seven authors, including myself, who contributed to this piece. The other six are: justinrsutton, Charlie Burris, Prediction? Pain., War Machine Dawg, DawgFromHuntsville, and EthanLee. I thank all of you for your contributions.
The ranking is comprised of the average rank for each team from the contributors' polls. Now, here is the ranking:
1. at Auburn (Avg. Rank: 1.57)
First off, it's on the road. Mississippi State usually doesn't fare well in Auburn, having won only once since 2000, coming in 2007. Auburn is loaded with playmakers. Quarterback Jeremy Johnson is receiving a great deal of hype and could thrive under Gus Malzhan's offense. In addition, they have D'haquille Williams and Ricardo Lewis as receiving threats, and they shouldn't have trouble replacing Cameron-Artis Payne at running back with Roc Thomas and Javon Robinson. Also, bringing in Will Muschamp as defensive coordinator could bring new life to a talented defense.
2. vs. Alabama (Avg. Rank: 1.71)
It's Alabama. Mississippi State is 0-6 against the Crimson Tide under Dan Mullen, the last win coming in 2007. Many pundits are saying that Alabama will be down this year, losing many keys from last year. Although they do lose many weapons, especially on offense, they have talent from top recruiting classes over the years. They lose TJ Yeldon at running back but has Derrick Henry as his replacement. Defensively, they have one of the best front sevens in the country, led by A'Shawn Robinson.
3. at Arkansas (Avg. Rank: 3.71)
Arkansas is considered the "dark horse" of the SEC West this season. This team is drastically improved. This game is on the road, and Arkansas is wanting revenge from dropping the last three contests to Mississippi State. Not a great combination for the Bulldogs. Historically, State has not fared well on the road against the Razorbacks, having a 1-10 record all-time. It's in between Alabama and Ole Miss, meaning State could be banged up before playing a very physical team. Everything about this matchup is trouble for Mississippi State.
4. vs. Ole Miss (Avg. Rank: 4.57)
It's the Egg Bowl; this is always a tough game. The rivalry factor always gives this one a little something extra. The strong suit for Ole Miss is their defense, led by Robert Nkemdiche, Tony Conner, and CJ Johnson. The "landshark" defense is always tough and physical, making it one of the country's best defenses in 2014. Coming off of Alabama and Arkansas, that's not good news for Mississippi State. In addition, Laquon Treadwell is coming back from injury, being Ole Miss' main receiving threat. However, the Bulldogs have some advantages. The obvious one is that it's at home. The Bulldogs have not lost to Ole Miss in Starkville since 2003, and the road team has won only twice since 1999. Also, questions marks at quarterback and the offensive line could hinder Ole Miss this season.
5. at Texas A&M (Avg. Rank: 5.14)
Once again, this is a road game. Kyle Field is always a hostile environment, holding over 102,000 fans. It's a difficult environment for any team. The Aggies come into 2015 with a much improved team. Offensively, they start the number one nationally rated quarterback out of high school in the class of 2014, sophomore Kyle Allen. In addition, they have weapons around him with receivers Speedy Noil and Josh Reynolds. After having an atrocious defense last year, John Chavis comes in as defesnive coordinator, leaving the same position with LSU. Although it should be improved, there are still question marks on defense that Mississippi State can take advantage of.
6. at Missouri (Avg. Rank: 5.42)
Of all the SEC road environments Mississippi State gets to play in, this should be the least difficult. Faurot Field doesn't have the reputation of an incredibly hostile environment, but it's still a road game for the Bulldogs in a place where Mississippi State hasn't played since 1984. The two time defending East champions lose some guys but still brings back key contributors such as junior quarterback Maty Mauk. Although experienced, Mauk can be inconsistent. Last season, Missouri's defense was their strong suit. The lose their long time defensive coordinator Dave Steckel and bring in former Memphis DC, Barry Odom. The Tigers will have a young defense that could have trouble against Dak Prescott and the Bulldog offense.
7. vs. LSU (Avg. Rank: 6.00)
Firstly, it's at home, at 8:15, on ESPN. Davis Wade will be the loudest stadium in the United States on September 12, 2015. Last season, Mississippi State absolutely shredded apart LSU in Death Valley. This season, the Tigers bring in a new defensive coordinator and have a big question mark at quarterback. In 2014, Anthony Jennings and Brandon Harris didn't perform well for the Tigers, and that could be the case in Starkville. Also, we don't know what we're going to see from the LSU defense under Kevin Steele. This could be a big day for Mississippi State on all sides of the ball.
8. vs. Kentucky (Avg. Rank: 7.85)
This is the expected choice at number eight. Dan Mullen is 6-0 against Kentucky in his time at Mississippi State, and the Bulldogs have not lost to the Wildcats since 2008. Kentucky should be improved, bringing back quarterback Patrick Towles and having an experienced defense. This game is always close, but it always goes to the Bulldogs.
There isn't much difference among these games. All of them are difficult tests for Mississippi State, and it shows just how tough the SEC has become.