When Dan Mullen arrived at Mississippi State the bar was low. His predecessor, Sylvester Croom, had one winning season in 5 years and a combined record of 21-38. Mullen left the Bulldogs with a 69-46 record and 8 straight bowl appearances, an incredible improvement considering the competition on the field and in recruiting.
Now, as the new head coach of the Florida Gators, Dan Mullen is not shying away from championship talk. He has repeatedly spoken of the expectations to not only win the SEC but also a national championship.
At Mississippi State Mullen would often say the goal of the program was ultimately to win the SEC, but those ambitions fell short, and it was 6 years before that goal even seemed like a possibility. He has no doubt left the Bulldogs better off than he found them 9 years ago, but he leaves for a storied program with established recruiting pipelines in the heart of one of the most accomplished states in high school football.
Enter Joe Moorhead, Mullen’s successor at Mississippi State. After stepping off the plane in Starkville for the first time Moorhead approached the players that came to welcome him and asked if they knew their ring size. They didn’t, but he told them they had better find out. Moorhead wants his coaches and players to share his same championship mentality from day 1.
Moorhead hasn’t hidden his ambitions since arriving in Starkville. He intends to win championships, and he wants everyone, whether it be fans, coaches, players, or administrators, to have the same championship expectations as him. Perhaps he wants everyone to have the same expectations as Florida has of Dan Mullen.
And shouldn’t that be the case?
Since 2010 Florida has had a combined record of 60-41. Mississippi State since 2010 have a combined record of 64-39. Similar records over the course of the decade, adding in the fact that Mississippi State are competing in the SEC West, what is consistently toughest division in the country, while Florida is in the East, and have spent significantly less money on their coaching staff while Florida have now had 3 head coaches since Urban Meyer’s departure.
Mississippi State was one win away from finishing the 2014 regular season in the 4th spot for the inaugural College Football Playoff, a season that also saw them ranked no. 1 in the country for the first time ever. They’ve only had one losing season this decade compared to Florida’s 2, and it was a losing season where they still made and won a bowl game.
Mullen enters a program that has struggled mightily with consistency and discipline while Joe Moorhead steps into a program with 17 returning starters, a current and future quarterback, one of the best defenses in the SEC, and an impressive 2018 recruiting class that he even added a couple 4 and 3 stars to by the end of signing day.
There is no disputing the fact that Mullen is largely responsible for elevating Mississippi State football to the point where it would be an attractive job for someone like Joe Moorhead, but the mood in Starkville seems to be that John Cohen found an upgrade at head coach, someone who wants to stay long term and keep raising expectations. This is a program that is now on the same level, if not a level above, Florida, and Moorhead clearly expects a higher level of success from himself and his players.