After a surprising season-opening loss to South Alabama, Mississippi State must now attempt to find 6 wins on its remaining schedule and get to a bowl game. So what does history say about MSU's chances to rebound and make a bowl game?
This article takes a look at the history after the Bulldogs lose a season-opener, and for the purpose of this article, we'll focus on the years after the SEC was formed in 1932. Prior to that, schedules weren't as consistent and some years we played as few as 5 games in a season.
Since 1932, State had lost 22 season openers. Saturday's loss to South Alabama was our 23rd in that timeframe. In the seasons that followed those losses, the Bulldogs averaged just 3.4 total wins, and less than 1.5 SEC victories. Only 4 of those 22 times were we able to rebound and have a winning record.
But the majority of the 22 losses weren't upset losses like we endured Saturday. 12 of those were to SEC teams and another 5 were to other power-5 schools (Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, and Oregon). Furthermore, 6 of those games were against ranked opponents.
Last Saturday was the 6th loss to smaller-conference teams similar to South Alabama. We previously lost to Houston (1960), LA Tech (1968, 2008), and Memphis (1979, 1993). In those 5 seasons, our best finish was a 4-5-2 record in 1993, still 2 games away from the 6 wins required to make a bowl game.
Only twice has State been able to make a bowl game after losing the opener. In 2007, we were shutout by #2 LSU 45-0 but went on to finish the regular season 7-5 and won the Liberty Bowl. Most recently, in 2013, we lost to #13 Oklahoma State 21-3 and won our final two games to get to 6 wins and again, won the Liberty Bowl against Rice.
The bottom line is we must win our 3 remaining non-conference games and 3 games in the SEC. With South Carolina, Arkansas, and Kentucky all looking vulnerable last weekend, I believe 6 wins is still a possibility, but there's no margin for error. And history certainly isn't on our side.