Dream/disaster scenarios for Mississippi State in 2016
More are planning disaster rather dreaming big for Mississippi State. Sure, the Bulldogs lost the face of the program in quarterback Dak Prescott, but this is a team that only a couple of years ago was the No. 1 team in the nation.
No former No. 1 team gets the non-red carpet treatment quite like Mississippi State did at SEC Media Days, picked to finish last in the conference. It could happen, but so could a lot of other things.
Here’s a look at a few dream/disaster scenarios in 2016.
Dream: Let’s start with the positive. Say QB Nick Fitzgerald emerges from the four-man race to become the guy. That could happen with a gaudy performance against South Alabama, followed by leading the Bulldogs to an SEC-opening win the following week against South Carolina. Winning at LSU in Week 3 obviously is a dream scenario — Prescott in 2014 became the first Bulldogs QB to win in Baton Rouge since 1991 — but who dreams small?
Disaster: Fitzgerald doesn’t become the guy, and neither do the guys behind him. Damian Williams is the oldest, a junior, but his lone start was way back in the 2013 Egg Bowl. In losses to South Carolina and LSU, sophomore Elijah Staley and freshman Nick Tiano struggle. That means a decline in the production of receiver Fred Ross, otherwise one of the best in the SEC, a halt in the rise of potentially-explosive receiver Malik Dear and the stalling of the rise of likely starting running back Aeris Williams. Off to an 0-2 SEC start, things aren’t looking up after a week off when Auburn visits.
Dream: The defense carries the offense while the offense figures it out. This is an entirely possible dream. Richie Brown returns his 100-plus tackles at linebacker. Seniors A.J. Jefferson and Dale Torrey are just two who could be very good at the ends. Brandon Bryant is a ballhawk at defensive back, three picks as a redshirt freshman. If the young ones (sophomore DBs Mark McLaurin and Jamal Peters among them) find footing early, the defense is capable of scaring LSU, even at night in Death Valley.
Disaster: The Bulldogs go 0-6 on the road. Legitimately, 0-4 is possible at LSU, BYU, Alabama and Ole Miss, but for the sake of the disaster, let’s include UMass and Kentucky. Dan Mullen has already flirted with some job openings. He says he’s never leaving, but that’s easier to say now that he really doesn’t have anywhere else to go. If he goes 0-6 on the road and finishes as the media says he will, he’ll have to find somewhere to go.
Dream: Fans aren’t all that realistic, but this dream is for those who are. Picked to finish last, the only place to go is up. If the Bulldogs manage a 3-0 start after a win at LSU and beat Auburn at home and BYU at midnight in Provo, there is a possibility of an 8-0 and highly-ranked team when Texas A&M visits Nov. 5. Even if they manage only one win in the next three against the Aggies, Alabama and Arkansas, that would be nine wins. A 10th win in the Egg Bowl, which at this point looks like a huge upset, would spit in the face of the media that has been dumping on Mississippi State since Prescott’s last pass.