Mississippi State started 2012 with seven consecutive victories, but the Bulldogs struggled in the second half of the season with a 1-5 mark over their final six contests.
With 11 starters back, Mississippi State should be back in the mix for a winning season in 2013. But the SEC isn’t going to get any easier. Auburn and Arkansas should show improvement under their new coaching staffs, and the addition of Texas A&M will only add another obstacle in the West Division for the Bulldogs.
Coach Dan Mullen has done a good job of elevating Mississippi State into a being a consistent bowl team, but the fanbase wants to compete for SEC West titles.
With a non-conference date against Oklahoma State and a road test at South Carolina in crossover play, Mississippi State will have a tough time replicating last year’s eight wins.
What will Mississippi State's record at the end of the 2013 regular season? Athlon’s panel of experts debates:
Mississippi State's 2013 Game-by-Game Predictions
8/31 Oklahoma State (Houston)
9/7 Alcorn State
9/14 at Auburn
10/12 Bowling Green
11/2 at South Carolina
11/9 at Texas A&M
11/23 Arkansas (Little Rock)
11/28 Ole Miss
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Dan Mullen’s overall record at Mississippi State is just 29-22, but the Bulldogs have made considerable progress under his watch. Mississippi State has three consecutive winning seasons for only the second time since 1960, and if the Bulldogs make a bowl, it will be first time in school history the program has made four straight postseason appearances. So while the wins haven’t been as plentiful has some may have wanted, Mississippi State is on the right track and has closed the gap with the rest of the SEC. Surpassing last year’s eight wins will be difficult, especially since the schedule is a little tougher than it was last year, and the Bulldogs must replace standout cornerback Johnthan Banks. Provided a few receivers emerge, the offense should average around 30 points a game. And promoting Geoff Collins to be the defense’s playcaller should pay dividends for Mullen. Mississippi State’s depth and talent has improved in recent years, but the SEC West isn’t getting easier. Auburn and Arkansas will be better than they were last season, and Ole Miss and Texas A&M aren’t expected to take a step back. Expect another bowl game and six or seven win season in Starkville this year.
Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
Dan Mullen must replace some big-time names in his secondary, but I think this team is going to be sneaky good up front on that side of the ball. Offensively, the Bulldogs are one of only three SEC teams returning a 2,800-yard passer and 1,000-yard rusher to the same backfield in Tyler Russell and LaDarius Perkins. If Russell can take the next step in his development, this team could be dangerous. More likely, however, is State fails to compete with the big boys and beats the teams it is supposed to. Another bowl game and another five losses for Mullen and Company in Starkville.
Dan Mullen has averaged just over seven wins in his four seasons at Mississippi State and the Bulldogs have gone to three straight bowl games. Mullen has raised the bar in Starkville, but the schedule-makers did him no favors as he looks to keep the momentum going this fall. It's not that Mississippi State is or will be a bad team, it's just that a schedule that opens with Oklahoma State and also includes Alabama, LSU, South Carolina and Texas A&M, as well as the season-ending Egg Bowl with OIe Miss will be tough sledding.
The offense needs a big senior season from quarterback Tyler Russell and some unproven wide receivers to step up, while the front seven of the defense will need to lead the way to allow an inexperienced secondary the time to develop. Even if everything goes right for Mullen and his team, they still could finish no better than .500 during the regular season. The fact that such a showing would be considered a disappointment shows you how far Mullen has already brought this program. Remember this Bulldogs fans, especially when the calendar turns to November.
David Fox (@DavidFox615)
Give credit to Dan Mullen: His teams rarely lose games they’re supposed to win. They’ve just never won games they’re supposed to lose. Mississippi State is probably better than the 6-6 team I’ve picked here. With a veteran quarterback and a solid defensive line, the Bulldogs should be able to compete in the SEC. But the Bulldogs are going to have to prove they can beat the top teams in the league (or the top teams in the Big 12, for that matter). Getting an untested LSU team at home early in the season will be a good opportunity for Mississippi State to make a statement, plus an Egg Bowl that finally has a bit of appeal outside of the state.
SEC Logo (@SEC_Logo)
Last year Tyler Russell competed 58.6% of his passes for 2,897 yards 24 TDs / 10 INTs. Those aren't bad numbers by any stretch, but playing this schedule, they won’t cut it this season. State has guys who are SEC household names: Gabe Jackson, Benardrick McKinney, LaDarius Perkins, that’s NFL talent. But look at this November slate: at South Carolina, at Texas A&M, Alabama, at Arkansas, Ole Miss. Brutal... Name to remember: Chris Jones.
Related College Football Content
SEC Predictions for 2013
SEC 2013 All-Conference Team
SEC Coaches Anonymously Talk About Conference Foes for 2013
College Football's Top 25 Running Back Units for 2013
Florida Football: Game-by-Game Predictions for 2013
Texas A&M Football: Game-by-Game Predictions for 2013
Georgia Football: Game-by-Game Predictions for 2013
Getting to Know the SEC's New Coaches for 2013
College Football's 2013 All-America Team
SEC's Top Heisman Contenders for 2013