Since Dan Mullen’s second season with the Mississippi State Bulldogs when his squad went 9-4 and finished in the Top 25 in 2010, he’s gone from being one of the hottest commodities in college football to a coach on the hot seat back to being a coach everybody loves. At least in the public’s eye.
Last year was a prime example of that, after the Bulldogs began the season 4-6 before winning their last three games. Mullen was forced to address hot seat talk as late as November, and by the end of the season he had Starkville hyped up with high expectations for the following year.
To be fair to Mullen, it’s not easy to win at Mississippi State right now when the SEC West is so loaded, to the point of being the toughest division in college football. Last year there were four teams with national title aspirations on their mind, and MSU and Ole Miss would both have been Top 25 teams if they played any other divisional schedule in the country. This year, it could get even tougher with those four teams still in the mix, Ole Miss locking up its second straight Top 20 recruiting class, and Arkansas possibly returning to winning in Bret Bielema’s second year.
So how unreasonable are the expectations? Mississippi State could improve dramatically this year, become a Top 10 caliber team, and
they’d still be in a dogfight for 7 wins. Welcome to the SEC West.
The good news for Mullen and the Starkville community is there’s a lot of talent coming back on both sides of the ball. Dak Prescott should be fully healthy going into the season, and everybody Mullen would need to run his spread offense is back.
It’s worth mentioning that last year the Bulldogs were very close to beating SEC champion Auburn early in the year, but they also could have easily lost four more games and fallen to 2-10. That leaves this year up in the air.
With more experience, can Mississippi State move up the SEC West ladder? Or will simply playing in the SEC West hold them back?