We’re getting more and more into the part of the calendar year where people who write about college football start looking for stories to write. This usually involves any number of lists or rankings. Whether it be position groups, coaches, or any other way in which football teams can be stacked up and ranked 1 through 14, those of us who write about college football will do it.
The Mississippi St. Bulldogs, whether it be the players, coaches, and in some cases the fans, don’t always do so well in these rankings. Sometimes the criticisms of parts of the program are valid, and other times it shows the writer went by reputation alone and just put Mississippi State towards the bottom of their rankings. Deserved or not, most Bulldog fans feel somewhat slighted every time this happens.
So I thought I would take some time to prepare you for what might happen in 2017. If you see Mississippi State ranked at the bottom on the many lists to come, then don’t say I didn’t warn you. Rest assured, you’re going to like some of the things you read about the Bulldogs upcoming season.
The Continuation of the Dan Mullen Love Fest
This one has been surprising. At some point in the past month or so, people began debating who the second best coach in the SEC was. And much to my surprise, many people have given the mantle to Dan Mullen.
This hasn’t set well with fans of the other programs in the SEC, but there is certainly a case to be made for Mullen. I’m not going to make it here, but don’t be surprised if it continues. Sure there will be some detractors, but they will be in the minority.
Nick Fitzgerald will be Praised, but not as Much as Bulldog Fans Would Like
If the consensus for best SEC quarterback is someone other than Jalen Hurts, I’ll be surprised. He was a freshman on the most dominant team in the SEC, and by default, this will make him the best quarterback in the SEC by most people’s thinking. Winning and losing is often tied to the quarterback, and I hate it. I think they’re the most important player on the team, but how closely most people associate good quarterback play with wins and bad quarterback play with losses is completely off base.
So this is why Jalen Hurts will be called the best SEC quarterback. Alabama is going to be predicted to be the best SEC team, so Jalen Hurts will be considered the best SEC quarterback. Most Mississippi State fans may not agree with this assessment, but this won’t upset the fan base.
What will upset the fans is when Nick Fitzgerald is either Third Team All SEC in the preseason poll or isn’t on any of the preseason teams. The Jarret Stidham and Auburn hype have begun, and if he isn’t second team, I’d be surprised. Then there will be a host of players competing for third team. Jake Bentley, Jacob Eason, Shea Patterson, Austin Allen, and Drew Lock will all get All SEC votes along with Nick Fitzgerald. This might keep him off the All SEC preseason team altogether.
But he will get some preseason love. There are already some people suggesting with the right amount of improvement, Fitzgerald could be a good candidate to leave school after his junior season. So he’ll get some attention from the media, but it might not be the right amount in many fans’ eyes.
The Defense will get Criticized from all Angles
The defense for the Bulldogs was one of the worst in the SEC a season ago. The depths of their awfulness were so great, expect many to not think there will be a lot of improvement.
You’ll probably see people say Todd Grantham will get the defense better, but not by a lot. There will be people who cite the complexity of Grantham’s defense as too much to make a significant impact. Whether they’re right or wrong, time will only tell. But you can expect people to not be too high on the defensive side of the football for the Bulldogs.
There will be Talk of Mississippi State being a Dark Horse
There will be areas of criticism, but there will also be a lot of people talking about Mississippi State being one of those sneaky good teams, and maybe being a dark horse to finish at the top of the SEC. They’re currently in Stewart Mandel’s Top 25, even if it is just barely.
People will talk about Dan Mullen’s development of quarterbacks, and how well Nick Fitzgerald fits his system. While many won’t be impressed with the defense, some will say if they can improve just a little, then it might be enough for Mississippi State to make a run at a New Year’s Six Bowl.
Starkville will be Trashed Routinely
Expect at least five to ten different rankings of best college towns in the SEC or best tailgating in the SEC and you can expect Starkville to be at the bottom. I don’t necessarily have an issue with Starkville being at the bottom, because the SEC is blessed with many great places for college football fans. But I take serious umbrage with the lack of positive things people will have to say about Starkville.
There was a time when criticizing Starkville for a lack of things to do or good places to eat was valid. But that time is no longer.
Credit Andy Staples for doing what so many other national sports writers won’t: going into Starkville and getting acquainted with the city. There are tons of good places to eat in Starkville now. And if you can’t have a good time there, that’s on you.
Many assume Starkville is the exact same town it was 30 years ago. It’s not. There is a host of places to eat and good times to be had. But if you just assume it’s the same place it was so long ago and refuse to leave campus, well I can’t help you.
The Ole Miss Preseason Love Fest Comes to an End
Every year since before the beginning of the 2013 season, Ole Miss has been praised for all they are supposed to do. And while it doesn’t affect the Bulldogs directly, it became nauseating to many Bulldog fans to have to continually listen to writers and talking heads gush about the Rebels.
I wouldn’t expect much of it this time around. The Rebels finished 5-7 a year ago, and they self imposed a bowl ban. Many will think the Rebels might relish the spoiler role to start with, but keeping that edge will be difficult after a few losses.
There might be some who hold out hope due to Shea Patterson and their bounty of receivers, but I wouldn’t expect too much of it. For once, you won’t have to listen to people tripping over themselves to heap praise among the Rebels.
I hope this helps you prepare for what is to come when people start sizing up the Bulldogs. The best news out of all of this is simply that none of it matters in the end. All that will matter is what each team does on the field.