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Five Mississippi State football thoughts for Tuesday, November 18, 2014

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A few scattered thoughts on this past weekend, what MSU still has in front of it, and what outside distractions could be coming.

John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

1. Whether MSU is in the top four tonight or not, it still should be if it wins out

A lot of people in the state of Mississippi will have their eyes fixed on TV screens tonight to see if Mississippi State stays in the top four of the College Football Playoff rankings.  Regardless if the Bulldogs stay in the final four or not, it really won't matter until after they play the Egg Bowl on Thanksgiving weekend.  With the Alabama loss, MSU needs to win out to remain in contention, and that won't come easy as State travels to Oxford for a must-win rivalry game.  Giving your rival a chance to play spoiler is never ideal, especially when they still have an outside shot of their own at winning the SEC West.

Should -- and again I emphasize that is a big assumption at this point -- MSU win out, I think they will be in the top four.  It would have been much easier had FSU lost this past weekend, but even with them likely sewing up a spot, I think State remains as the nation's fourth best team.  Yes, MSU will get criticism for playing a weak non-con schedule, but let's not forget that TCU played FCS Samford, and Baylor played FCS Northwestern State.  Ohio State does get more credit for playing a better OOC schedule, but they are likely to finish with one top-25 win: one.  I've never been a big Clay Travis fan, but it's hard to argue with this from him:

2. Mullen's name and job openings: prepare yourselves

Yesterday we dodged one bullet as ESPN reported that Dan Mullen would not be a candidate for that job.  Dan himself had already practically removed himself weeks ago, but still, it doesn't hurt to hear that Dan is officially out.

However.... Don't be surprised if we see Dan's name come up again with other job openings soon.  If the Michigan job opens, that could send waves of hirings through college football, and who knows if Dan is looked at hard by either them or another involved, larger school.  That is just something that comes with success, and with MSU's this year, it's always been likely that Dan's name will be floated around, and not just by Ole Miss fans.  Now, will he leave?  I honestly don't think so, but you never really know for sure until it happens or the season comes and goes and he's still here.  All I'm saying is prepare yourselves to see his name out there, and for us to likely talk about it here on the site if it comes from reliable places.

3. Dak is done with the Heisman race and that's fine

Dak is done with the Heisman race after a three-INT day at Alabama, and frankly I'm fine with that, as I imagine most of you are as well.  He has been pressing noticeably since the Texas A&M game, and it reached a crescendo against Alabama on Saturday night.  I think Dak will now go back to playing more Dak-like with the Heisman pressure off, which works out better for MSU's team goals.  There's always next year for Dak's Heisman chances, but the team has much to still play for in 2014.

Dak has done so much for this team this season; we wouldn't be undefeated until last weekend if it weren't for him.  So it's hard to heap a ton of criticism on him for this past weekend or any of the last several weekend performances.  Dak is still a really good player, and hopefully with talk of leaving early and the Heisman subsiding, he can go back to being Dak.

4. Does Arkansas count as a quality win now?

Last weekend wasn't a great weekend for MSU or its resume, as the Bulldogs three "top ten" wins earlier in the year against LSU, Texas A&M and Auburn all took a hit with all three teams losing.  The Auburn one probably stings the most, as we needed them to win out to keep that big win in our belts.  I don't think the decline for those three teams necessarily means that MSU isn't a top four team, but it won't help our cause either, and you can be sure that others fighting for the final spot will be happy to point it out, too.

I don't necessarily believe that the Arkansas win now becomes a "quality" one with them beating LSU last weekend, but if they beat Ole Miss this weekend?  I think there's more of a case for it, especially with them becoming bowl eligible and with what would be a victory over a top ten team.  Keep in mind that they had Alabama beat earlier in the year, and they took us until the final whistle.  They are better than their record indicates, and they will be  yet another cog in the SEC West race/jumble next season.

5. Finding balance in criticism

It's hard as a rational (key word here) fan to find the balance point of how much you can criticize the coaches of your favorite team.  After Saturday, I found myself eager to jump on Dan Mullen for the playcalling, especially in the first half.  Why did we run Dak TWICE on third and plus yardage downs when everyone in the house knew it was coming? Where was the playcalling that we saw against LSU? The same could be said for Geoff Collins: why in the world was a safety covering Amari Cooper in the redzone?  I still would pose these questions, but at a certain point, I find myself scaling back the negative things I say.

Dan Mullen and Geoff Collins have led this team to a 9-1 start this season. 9-1: just think about that in terms of what we've seen in the last decade of football.  State will llikely be 10-1 come Sunday, and if you would have asked me if that was possible prior to the season I would have said no.  Yet here we are, so the coaches have to be doing something right, right?  It gets easier the further we get away from the loss, but I do still catch myself wanting to criticize when I probably shouldn't.