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In the long run, what does Mississippi State’s performance against Alabama mean for the future of the program?

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There might not be such a thing as moral victories, but there things we can learn from the heartbreak of Saturday’s loss.

NCAA Football: Alabama at Mississippi State Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

This is not about moral victories. The Mississippi St. Bulldogs lost the game to the Alabama Crimson Tide, and playing the Tide well doesn’t make up for not beating them.

But even though there are no moral victories, you still have to learn from this performance. Coach Dan Mullen and his staff will build on the positives and try to correct the areas where the game was ultimately lost. And as we come to the final stretch of games, what can we say about this team’s future as a result of this game?

Will Bama beat State once or beat them additional times?

Mississippi State has two regular season games remaining. One on the road against the Arkansas Razorbacks and the other against the Ole Miss Rebels. Both teams might be worse defensively than they were a year ago, and the Bulldogs are infinitely improved on defense. They should both be games the Bulldogs win with relative ease.

But Bama losses can have a strange effect on teams. If you don’t believe me, just go ask Texas A&M. It’s always after they play Bama that they go in the tank. Mississippi State has to put this loss behind them and take care of business in the last two games of the season.

2018 will be special

As much as we all hate to say “Wait until next year”, there’s a lot of truth to it for this team. Mississippi State returns basically this entire team in 2018, and the schedule is mostly favorable for the Bulldogs.

The biggest obstacles on next year’s schedule is going on the road to LSU and Alabama. But with a 30 point shelling of LSU and playing Bama as well as they did on Saturday, there is plenty of reason to believe that Mississippi State will be up to the challenge with another year of experience under their belt. Am I saying they will win the west? No, but I don’t think it is a foregone conclusion that the Bulldogs can’t in 2018.

Nick Fitzgerald isn’t 2015 Dak Prescott, but neither was Dak Prescott in 2014

For all the talk about the accuracy and development of Nick Fitzgerald, people forget that Dak Prescott wasn’t the most accurate passer ever in 2014. Sure, his completion percentage will end up being about three or four points higher than Fitzgerald’s, but comparing the receiving corps of each team, you can wonder if Dak would have had similar numbers in 2014 if the receivers were swapped.

This isn’t about drops. This is about getting open and winning 50-50 balls. Those were two things the receivers did so well in 2014 that this receiving corps is still trying to learn to do. They are improving, but they still have a ways to go.

Nick Fitzgerald might not become the great, accurate passer some envisioned. But he is an amazing athlete that Dan Mullen has figured out how to squeeze every drop of potential out of. With another year of development, Fitzgerald might take this program to heights even Dak Prescott couldn’t reach in 2018.

Mullen believes this team can win big

And don’t let this be understated. With another solid season at Mississippi State, the Mullen to wherever rumors have been hot and heavy again. But Mullen thinks he can win against Alabama and said they’ll give it another shot next year.

That could be a coach just talking to reporters without really thinking about what it means, but it sounds like a coach who wants to see to it that the team he is currently with go win a championship. Whenever someone talks about Mullen to another job, they always mention the glass ceiling.

Well what if the Bulldogs haven’t reached that glass ceiling under Mullen? This team lost big to Georgia and Auburn, but they have also grown since those games. If the team that stepped on the field against those two teams stepped on the field Saturday, then a similar result would have occurred. But this team has improved by leaps and bounds since then, and Mullen has every reason to believe that his best years past the Mississippi State coach might be ahead of him.