You've heard all season about Mississippi State's front-loaded baseball schedule. Five of our first seven SEC opponents were ranked in the top-12 when we played them, and those five are all still ranked in the top 17.
We won four series against those ranked teams, so the resume is incredibly strong for Mississippi State, who's ranked #4 in this week's D1 Baseball poll. Many national pundits are projecting the Bulldogs to be a National Seed - hosting a regional and in-line to host the Super Regional, should we advance.
But what are our chances at an elusive SEC overall, or SEC West Title? Surprisingly, Mississippi State has never won the SEC West since the conference split into divisions in the early 1990s, and our last overall SEC Title was 27 years ago, in 1989.
Currently, State is tied for fifth in the conference - 3 games out of the lead, but we have the easiest remaining schedule, with each of our opponents holding identical 7-14 SEC records.
Let's look at our remaining schedule:
- vs MISSOURI: Mizzou has been swept by every good team they've played (#1 Florida, #8 Vanderbilt, #17 LSU, and #7 South Carolina). If we're going to get a series sweep this year, it's this one.
- at AUBURN: the Tigers are a combined 6-8 on Fridays & Saturdays, but hold just a 1-6 record on Sundays. This will be a big series for Auburn, with Butch Thompson facing his former team.
- vs ARKANSAS: Arkansas has been swept by #7 South Carolina, #12 ole miss, and #1 Florida, and they lost a series to bottom-feeder Missouri. But the Hogs recently took a road series against middle-of-the-pack Kentucky (11-10 SEC). Is that an anomaly, or are they going to finish strong?
Realistically, I think our best case scenario is 8-1 over that stretch. We could surely sweep any of these teams, but winning nine straight SEC games would be extremely difficult, no matter the opponent. An 8-1 remaining record would put us at 20-10 overall.
The overall SEC Title race
I don't think 20 wins will be enough to catch South Carolina (15-5) or Florida (14-6) for the overall Title. Despite difficult remaining schedules, I think both of those teams will finish with at least 20 wins, and if either gets to 21 wins, we'd be mathematically eliminated.
The SEC West race
At 14-7 and holding the head-to-head tiebreaker, Texas A&M currently has a 3-game lead over MSU (12-9). But A&M has the toughest schedule left in the SEC - vs #8 Vanderbilt (13-8), at #7 South Carolina (15-5), and vs #12 ole miss (12-9).
Had we been able to win just one game against the Aggies during Super Bulldog Weekend, we'd be 1-game back (instead of 3), and we would probably be the favorites to win the SEC West.
Instead, we need to pick up three games against A&M down the stretch. Keep your eyes on the #8 Vanderbilt at #2 Texas A&M series this weekend. If we're going to make a move, we need Vandy to win a game or two this weekend.
I don't think we can catch Carolina and Florida, so I think the overall Title is out of reach at this point. There's a glimmer of hope for the SEC West, but it's still a long shot. I think we'll finish 7-2 and end up one game behind A&M, wishing we could play that Super Bulldog Weekend Series again. But anything can happen in the SEC. We'll know much more after this weekend. Hopefully Vanderbilt can get hot and take the series on the road.
Regardless of what Texas A&M does, we need to keep winning to secure that National Seed. A 7-2 finish would put us 38-16 overall (19-11 SEC) and I think that should be enough for one of the top-8 spots. Hopefully we can get that elusive SEC sweep against Missouri this weekend, and help our cause in the SEC West race and the hunt for a National Seed.