Earlier today, the Southeastern Conference released its 2014 football schedule, essentially distracting us all, at least momentarily, from focusing vivaciously on the quickly upcoming 2013 season.
With the release of the official conference schedule, MSU's 2014 schedule is set, as eight conference games joined non conference opponents Southern Miss, UAB, South Alabama, and UT-Martin to round out a full 12 game schedule for the first season in the newly renovated Davis Wade Stadium.
A quick look at MSU's now fully released schedule would seem to indicate that the back stretch sets up much more favorably than in previous years, and overall, the tougher games are spread out much more evenly from Labory Day to Thanksgiving Day. Here's a look at the schedule, followed by some notes:
|August 30th||Southern Miss|
|September 13th||@ South Alabama|
|September 20th||@ LSU|
|October 4th||Texas A&M|
|October 25th||@ Kentucky|
|November 15th||@ Alabama|
|November 29th||@ Ole Miss|
- State has only one stretch with back-to-back away games, and one of those is South Alabama, so really there are no difficult stretches of away games in this schedule. That's a great relief, seeing as MSU will travel to South Carolina and Texas A&M in consecutive weeks this season.
- I've already seen people complaining about going to South Alabama, but honestly, who cares really. I know they're a young D1 team, but I have to think that if we made a deal to go down there, it saved us some money that we undoubtedly put to good use either in the expansion or somewhere else within the department. I don't really see the need to get all upset about it.
- The LSU game, which last year was moved from its typical spot in late September to early November, has now been moved back to September where its sweaty self belongs. The game will be played in October this year too, so it's like they made a full transition from September to November and back, all in about three years.
- MSU's most difficult stretch at this point in time looks to be that stretch starting with the game in Baton Rouge and ending in a home game against Auburn. The good news there is that both LSU and Texas A&M should be breaking in new quarterbacks, and who knows how many other positions, and most importantly, two of those three critical games are at home. State typically plays Auburn well at home no matter what, so even if the Tigers are much improved next year, having that game in Starkville is an advantage, for sure.
- The biggest thing to note here is the final five games on the schedule. To truly understand how much this will improve in 2014, take a quick look back at the 2012 and 2013 schedules. Instead of having a reverse mullet-esque schedule (party in the front, business in the back) like 2012 or another heavily loaded back half in 2013, MSU will in 2014 enter the final five game stretch with a legitimate shot at winning four games in that span. The clumping of the Alabama-Arkansas-Ole Miss games together had caused that task to be difficult in years past, but with Arkansas moving up to between Kentucky and UT-Martin, this could alleviate some of the back end pressure on MSU.
- The biggest and probably only disappointment I have is that the Egg Bowl moves back to a Saturday. That was done as a part of the new LSU-Texas A&M rivalry game moving to Turkey Day, essentially making this year's move to Thanksgiving a short farewell tour to Thanksgiving games of old. It does make for easier travel for some, so I guess that is a positive to take away from it.
- I've seen several people talk about the lack of Thursday games on this schedule, but if I remember right, Thursday games weren't actually determined until later in the year in previous seasons. It seems like I recall the Kentucky game for 2013 originally being on a Saturday when the schedule was released, only to move to a Thursday a few months later. I say all that to say that I wouldn't cash all my chips in yet that State won't have at least one Thursday nighter next year. I'm almost willing to bet that it may be that Vanderbilt game, but we'll have to wait and see.
- Overall, I think this is as good as a schedule could get for Dan Mullen and MSU in 2014. State will be replacing a QB, sure, but with Prescott at the helm and a lot of returning pieces around him, this schedule sets up very nicely for State to potentially rack up some wins. I can see at least eight wins (potentially, I'm not guaranteeing anything) at first glance, with the potential for more. The opportunity is definitely there for State to have a solid year in 2014.