Sunday, 21 September 2003

Mississippi State: 0-12?

After last night’s loss to Houston (by a score of 42-35), the Mississippi State Bulldogs appear to have blown their best chance for a road win this season, and fall to 0-3 for the season (and 3-13 in their past 16 games). There are some serious problems down in Starkville, made all the more plain by fired defensive coordinator Joe Lee Dunn’s level of success in Memphis this year with arguably lesser talent.

Working slightly in State’s favor is the fact that their next three games are at home. However, looking at their opponents, things may not be quite so simple:

  • Next Saturday, Louisiana State rolls into Starkville fresh off the heels of a 4-0 start and a hard-fought victory over the defending SEC champion Georgia Bulldogs. The question isn’t whether LSU will win—it’s by how much?
  • October 4, Bobby Johnson’s now 1-3 Vanderbilt squad comes to Starkville in search of its first SEC win during Johnson’s reign in Nashville. (They face Georgia Tech at home this weekend, which this season is a winnable game for the Commodores.)
  • October 11 is Homecoming. More specifically, it’s homecoming for Joe Lee Dunn as Memphis (currently 2-1, and likely to be 4-1 by then) comes to town in search of a season sweep of the SEC.

Then come road tests at Auburn and Kentucky, a bye week, a home date with Alabama, two weeks in a row against current top-25 teams Tennessee and Arkansas on the road, and finally the Thanksgiving Egg Bowl match against Ole Miss. Given the current level of Mississippi State’s play, they’d be hard pressed to beat any of these teams.

Realistically, the home dates against Vanderbilt and Ole Miss are probably the most winnable, the former since Vanderbilt hasn’t exactly been tearing up the gridiron either and the latter due to the in-state rivalry. The current Sagarin ratings* only favor Mississippi State in its games against Vandy and Memphis, the latter only because the Bulldogs have home field advantage.

People used to call State the “Vandy of the West.” They’re not any more—State is almost certainly worse.

* Edited slightly since the Sagarin ratings I used to do this math actually did include Saturday’s games, including the losses by both State and Vandy.