The Associated Press on Tuesday released its list of the top 100 college football programs of all time. Mississippi State was rated ahead of South Carolina, Kentucky, and Vanderbilt on this list. Now depending on your view this is either higher than what you expected, lower than what you expected, or just about right. Today I am going to tell you a big reason why Mississippi State is where they are on this list and why other teams most notably SEC Teams are where they are.
Now, most of you know about the Allyn Mckeen era of Mississippi State. The Bulldogs were able to get the first SEC Title in the State of Mississippi and even had a team claim a National Championship on year that Mississippi State defeated them. Mississippi State would be considered a top 25 all time college football program at this time. So what went wrong from this point to all the way until the Jackie Sherrill era or even until the Dan Mullen era? Well one thing to point to is the schedule. Mississippi State has arguably the toughest schedule historically not only in the SEC but also in the Nation.
Before the 1992 SEC Expansion, Mississippi State’s most common opponents were Ole Miss, Alabama, Auburn, LSU, and Florida. Ummm wow. That is a combined 27 claimed National Titles that Mississippi State played. To put this into perspective, the University of Mississippi’s most common played opponents during their 6 SEC titles were Mississippi State, Vanderbilt, LSU, Tulane, and Kentucky. Which have a combined 3 National Championships(all LSU).
It is noteworthy that Alabama, the top SEC program by the AP, was played by Mississippi State in their 1941 SEC Championship but not by the Rebels in any of their 6 SEC Titles, all of which came within a 16 year span from 1947 to 1963.
To make things worse for the Bulldogs, the Athletic Department consistently scheduled games away from Starkville. From 1907-1947 Mississippi State did not play Alabama in Starkville. From 1910-1949 not one game against Auburn was played in the state of Mississippi. In fact before 1978, Auburn only played twice in Starkville. The Florida Gators did recently come to the state of Mississippi, although the majority of the games have been in Gainesville.
The Rebels and the Bulldogs have played each other fairly evenly in Oxford and Starkville. However, the most notable drought is from 1931 to 1957 when Mississippi State did not leave the state of Louisiana and had the majority of their games played in Baton Rouge. and to top that off only 3 games were played in the state of Mississippi between 1931 and 1970. The Bulldogs played LSU in 1982 in Starkville for the first time since 1923. You just cannot make this stuff up.
Mississippi State had a tie in 1941 with LSU that could have prevented them from winning the SEC as their tie with Auburn did in 1940. Tennessee, the team that won the 1940 SEC Title by going 5-0 in conference play over MSU’s 4-0-1 record, had games against Vanderbilt and Kentucky where Mississippi State had road games against Alabama Auburn and LSU. Which was the exact same road games MSU had in 1941 and so on... Had there been a rotation of ANY kind. You might be looking at a possible Rose Bowl or some other SEC Titles during this period. And who knows? Maybe you do not run off Allyn Mckeen so that you do not have such a terrible football team from the 1940s to just about the 1990s.
Mississippi State is in as great position today to win the SEC as they ever have been. They have always played Alabama LSU Ole Miss and Auburn. Replacing Florida with Texas A&M doesn’t make it harder for the bulldogs one bit. Mississippi State today hosts Auburn, Arkansas, and Texas A&M on even years and Alabama, LSU, and Ole Miss on odd years. While this is not the most ideal situation, there is still a real path to the SEC Championship. Something Mississippi State is not used to winning.
With certain investigations and possible head coaching changes within the next few years, the SEC may once again see an opening for Mississippi State to contend for the SEC and to avenge the 1940’s Athletic Department for not scheduling SEC teams that would travel to Starkville.
Now, I could talk all day about the terrible decisions that the Athletic Department has historically made that affected sports such as men’s basketball, women’s basketball, baseball and so on. But that is another topic for another day. Just be glad to live in an era of Mississippi State where the Athletic Department has a brain and wants MSU to succeed in all sports.