In 2014, the Mississippi State Bulldogs won 10 games for the first time since 1999. This season will mark Dan Mullen's seventh in Starkville and with the exception of a 5-7 first year, Mullen has not had a losing season with the Bulldogs. Last year also marked the fifth straight wining campaign for the program. Fans in Starkville haven’t seen a streak like that since Allyn McKeen lead his Maroons to eight straight winning seasons from 1939-47 (Mississippi State did not field a team in 1943).
Dak Prescott returns for his senior year and to hopefully lead his team to an SEC West championship, something the Bulldogs haven’t accomplished since 1998. The Bulldogs return only seven starters and 45 lettermen to a team that was picked to finish last in the division at SEC Media Days.
Here are Mississippi State’s 12 regular season games, ranked from easiest to most difficult.
12. Sept. 19 vs. Northwestern State
The only FCS team on the Bulldogs' schedule will come in the third week of the season. The Bulldogs are 2-0 against the Demons but those games were played in 1945 and '46. This game comes a week after Mississippi State plays LSU so the Bulldogs could be flying high or looking to rebound after a tough loss.
11. Oct. 10 vs. Troy
Troy was 3-9 last year and will have a first-year head coach in Neal Brown, who has no previous head coaching experience in college football. The Bulldogs will be coming off an away game at Texas A&M so again the Bulldogs will need to stay focused whether they are coming off a win or loss but should handle Troy pretty easily.
10. Sept. 5 at Southern Miss
Last year the Bulldogs defeated Southern Miss 49-0. No amount of revenge will help them in 2015. The Golden Eagles may be an improving team but not enough to beat an SEC foe.
9. Oct. 17 vs. Louisiana Tech (Homecoming)
Louisiana Tech had a chance to win the C-USA crown but gave up a late touchdown to Marshall in the championship game. Skip Holtz will have his best quarterback in Florida transfer Jeff Driskel and the Bulldogs are poised to hit double-digit wins and return to the C-USA Championship Game. The home team is 5-1 in this series since 1980.
8. Oct. 24 vs. Kentucky
These two have played every year since 1990 with the Bulldogs leading the series 16-9. The Bulldogs entered last year’s contest as the No. 1 team in the nation. The Wildcats gave them fits for most of the game but could never catch up, never getting within more than two touchdowns. The Wildcats will be an improved team this year but not enough to go on the road and win in Starkville.
7. Oct. 3 at Texas A&M
Last year’s win by the Bulldogs tied the all-time series at 4-4. Road games are always tough in college football and the last time Mississippi State traveled to Kyle field, the Aggies and Johnny Manziel hung 51 points on the visitors.
6. Nov. 5 (Thursday) at Missouri
The Bulldogs are 11-4 against SEC East teams since 2009 but are 0-2 against Missouri all-time. Both teams will be coming off a bye and this year’s matchup will be on a Thursday night. In the last three years, the Bulldogs are 2-0 in weekday games.
5. Nov. 21 at Arkansas
Last year’s game was a defensive struggle, as Arkansas picked off Prescott twice and totaled three turnovers in the first half. The Razorbacks weren’t able to capitalize on those turnovers as they fell 17-10. This will be a much improved Arkansas team and the Bulldogs cannot afford turnovers like last year.
4. Nov. 28 vs. Ole Miss
The Egg Bowl has seen the home team win this annual game in each of the last four years. Early last year, it looked like the Egg Bowl might have been bigger than the Iron Bowl, which ended up not being the case. Could it be this year? Both schools will need this win if they want any shot at the College Football Playoff.
3. Sept. 12 vs. LSU
The Bulldogs begin the year on the road in week one and then welcome LSU into town. This will be an early test for both teams and with question marks about the quarterback situation in Baton Rouge, it could play into Manny Diaz’s defensive scheme to pressure the Tigers into throwing the ball rather than allowing Leonard Fournette to beat you all day.
2. Nov. 14 vs. Alabama
The Bulldogs haven’t defeated Alabama since 2007. In fact, they only have three wins against the Tide since 2000. Alabama is the favorite to win the West while the Bulldogs were picked to finish last. Not a lot of national love for the Bulldogs this year but you don’t need love to pull off an upset.
1. Sept. 26 at Auburn
The SEC West is as difficult a division in college football. Going on the road in SEC West games are even tougher. Within the first four games of the season, the Bulldogs have a chance of knocking off both LSU and Auburn, splitting the two games or being out of the Playoff picture before the end of September.
— Written by Justin Nails, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @justinnails