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Ranking the Best Seasons in Mississippi State Football History

After last season, I decided to look back and see where it stacked up with other great teams in Bulldog football history.

Mississippi State Playing in the 1941 Orange Bowl
Mississippi State Playing in the 1941 Orange Bowl

There has always been a debate as to what teams in Mississippi State history are the best ever, especially after this past season. After having a year like 2014, I decided to look back at the greatest football seasons in Mississippi State history. The rank goes from bottom to top, starting with #5 and ending with #1.

5. 1980 (9-3, 5-1)

Entering the 1980 season, Mississippi State was coming off of NCAA probation from former head coach Bob Tyler and had a 3-8 season in 1979 under first year head coach Emory Bellard. After his success as head coach of Texas A&M from 1972-1978, Bellard was expected to bring success to Starkville. In 1980, he did just that. After starting 4-2, Mississippi State reeled off six straight wins, including #18 Miami and the two time defending national champion, #1 Alabama. After a 31-17 loss in the Sun Bowl to #8 Nebraska, Bellard's Bulldogs finished 9-3 and #19 in the country, the first time Mississippi State had finished in the polls since 1976.

4. 1999 (10-2, 6-2)

Coming off of the 1998 season in which Mississippi State won their first ever SEC West title, Bulldog fans' expectations were at an all time high. Those expectations weren't met, but exceeded in 1999. Jackie Sherrill's Bulldogs started 8-0, the program's best start since 1940, which included thrilling victories over Memphis, Auburn, and Kentucky. After the amazing start, State dropped two straight to #11 Alabama and #22 Arkansas, which ended any chance of another West title. With that being said, the Bulldogs rebounded, defeating #23 Ole Miss in a Starkville and Clemson in the Peach Bowl to finish the season 10-2, Mississippi State's second ten win season in program history. Sherrill's 1999 squad finished the year 2nd in the West and #12 in the polls, the first time State had finished in the top 25 since 1994.

3. 2014 (10-3, 6-2)

There isn't much you don't know about the 2014 season, but it's always nice to revisit this memorable year. After reeling off three easy wins, Mississippi State found themselves entering an onslaught of games that seemed unbearable, but State was up to the task. After defeating LSU in Baton Rouge for the first time since 1991, Mississippi State dominated #6 Texas A&M, and all of a sudden, the Bulldogs found themselves 5-0 and #3 in the polls before #2 Auburn came to Starkville. Although having a sloppy performance, Mississippi State defeated Auburn 38-23, which vaulted MSU to #1 in the polls, the program's first visit to #1. After winning the next three games, Mississippi State was 9-0, which was the best start in program history. The Bulldogs then faced their toughest challenge of the year, #5 Alabama in Tuscaloosa, and fell 25-20. After that loss, the season disintegrated, with the Bulldogs dropping two of their last three games. Although the season ended poorly, Mississippi State won ten games for the third time in school history and finished #11 in the polls, the Bulldogs' highest finish since 1940.

2. 1941 (8-1-1, 4-0-1)

This is one of the most famous seasons in the history of Mississippi State athletics. A banner recognizing this season hangs outside Davis Wade Stadium, recognizing the first, and so far only, SEC title in State football history. This season included a 14-0 victory over Alabama, who would finish the season 9-2 and Cotton Bowl champions, and a 6-0 victory over Ole Miss, who finished the year 6-2-1 and #17 in the country. The only blemish for the 1941 squad was a 16-0 loss to Duquesne, a team that finished the season 8-0 and #8 in the country. This team would have competed in postseason play, but airports and train stations in the area were closed due to Pearl Harbor, which prevented the team to travel. Nevertheless, Mississippi State finished the season #16 in the polls and SEC champions.

1. 1940 (10-0-1, 4-0-1)

Similar to the 1941 team being the only team to win a SEC crown, the 1940 team has a lasting legacy in the history of Mississippi State football. It is the only undefeated team in program history. Although not winning the SEC crown, the team finished 2nd in the conference behind Tennessee, who finished the season with a 5-0 conference record, compared to State who finished 4-0-1. Mississippi State also won their first bowl game in program history, a 14-7 decision over Georgetown in the Orange Bowl. The Maroons finished the year #9 in the polls, which is the highest finishing rank in program history.