Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus, and yes, college football is just around the corner. For Mississippi State fans, all attention will be centered on Hattiesburg, Mississippi, where the Bulldogs will kick off their season against the Southern Miss Golden Eagles.
The 2014 season proved to be a season unlike any other for Mississippi State. The Bulldogs did not just knock on the door of being No. 1, they kicked it down, and they held onto the throne for five weeks until a loss to Alabama knocked the Bulldogs from their perch. Even so, a shot at the College Football Playoff remained until an Egg Bowl loss to Ole Miss. Now, the 2015 season knocks, and while some question marks remain for the Bulldogs, Mississippi State could be poised to make another run at glory.
No Good/Bad/Ugly since the season has not started, but let's go ahead and look at some predictions and projections.
SEC WEST Order of Finish
1. Alabama: Yes, there are questions about the Alabama quarterback position. Such questions existed last year, and Alabama still put together a fantastic season. Look for the Crimson Tide to win the West with one loss and go to Atlanta.
2. Mississippi State: The Bulldogs will be the team to pin the loss on Alabama. A shaky start and not urgent enough play calling cost the Bulldogs a game they could have won in Tuscaloosa. With this game at home, the Bulldogs will pick up the win. If the Bulldogs get out of their first SEC games unscathed, they will get to Atlanta.
3. LSU: LSU fans will feel as if they are in a conundrum after the season ends as to what to do with Les Miles. The Tigers will ten wins, but losses to Mississippi State and Alabama will doom their season.
4. Ole MIss: The Rebels will turn in a solid season with nine or so wins. One they won't win will be the season ending Egg Bowl in Starkville.
5. Auburn: The Tigers have all sorts of hype going into this season, but that defense will not improve enough this season. Auburn will mess up one season though, and I'm thinking it might be a home victory against Mississippi State that keeps the Bulldogs from Atlanta in the end.
6. Arkansas: The Razorbacks are a sleeper pick to reach Atlanta, and fairly so, because watching them play can make someone sleepy. They will be in a bowl, and they will be ranked. However, they aren't ready to pass up the SEC West just yet.
7. Texas A&M: The Aggies must improve their defense to have any sort of chance at success this year. John Chavis will help, but not enough. Seven wins might be the ceiling in College Station this year.
SEC East Order of Finish
1. Georgia: If Mark Richt is going back to Atlanta, this should be the year. South Carolina is down. Florida is down. Tennessee is not there yet. If the Bulldogs can get past Missouri, they should win the East.
2. Missouri: When the Tigers and Texas A&M went into the SEC, Missouri won by being placed in the East. A loss to Mississippi State will loom large in keeping the Tigers out of the SEC championship game this year.
3. Tennessee: The Volunteers are said to be a team on the rise, but saying and doing are two different things. Look for the Volunteers to stun someone, but they will not be able to reach Atlanta.
4. Florida: This is more of an indictment against the rest of the SEC East than a kudos to Florida. The Gators have a new coach, but they still have a lot of improving to do.
5. Kentucky: The Wildcats will get to a bowl game, but they will still firmly be behind most of the SEC East.
6. South Carolina: Go ahead and crank up the Steve Spurrier retirement rumors for the offseason. Right now, the leading passer for the Gamecocks is their No. 1 receiver Pharoh Cooper. Unless he is Mr. Perfect, he can't throw his own touchdown passes.
7. Vanderbilt: Remember when the Commodores were going to bowls and hanging in the race for the SEC East. Yep, feels like a long time ago.
SEC Championship Game:
Alabama 34, Georgia 24
CFP Playoff Predictions
Semifinal One: Ohio State vs. Alabama
Semifinal Two: Oregon vs. TCU
National Championship: Alabama vs. TCU
National Champion: Alabama
How did I fare in this game last year? Not too bad on the playoff picks, but perhaps question marks elsewhere.
Heisman Trophy Winner:
While I would love to put Dak Prescott here, I do not think he will walk away with the hardware. He might very well be in New York, however. At the end of the day an undefeated TCU led by Trevone Boykin will earn the Horned Frogs quarterback the trophy.
SEC Offensive Player of the Year:
Dak Prescott, QB, Mississippi State: Call me a homer, but no one has as much experience at the position as Dak Prescott. In addition to his experience, Prescott has playmakers at the wide receiver position. Look for Prescott to leave Starkville as easily the most prolific player at the position in Bulldog history, and look for him to leave with SEC Offensive Player of the Year Award
SEC Defensive Player of the Year:
Derek Barnett, Tennessee: When you have 20.5 tackles for loss, you jump on radars. Look for Barnett to stay on that radar by helping Tennessee win games and help himself win SEC Defensive Player of the Year honors.
How did those picks go last year? Well, you be the judge...
Five non-football thoughts:
In a bit of honesty here, one of these will probably be wrestling based each week...
1) I'm pumped up for Raw tonight. Knowing that Sting will square off against Seth Rollins for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship is awesome. I might even have to make the trip to Houston for that. Yes, Sting and my dad are close to the same age, but we all would mark out.
2) Congrats to the people of the Gulf Coast. This weekend marked ten years since Hurricane Katrina made landfall on the Mississippi Coast. It is amazing to see how people regrouped and rebuilt here.
3) I know we have all talked about Jordan Spieth this year in golf, but sleep on Jason Day at your own risk. He looked great at the US Open until vertigo overcame him. He was money at the PGA championship, and he does not look to be slowing down.
4) What an awful week of news last week was. There was so much senseless violence all across our nation. Let's hope serious, plausible steps are taken to try to end this.
5) I'm throwing out the first pitch at the Biloxi Shuckers game on Thursday. Any advice, other than don't bounce it?