Mississippi State football: Gauntlet awaits Bulldogs after bye
Mississippi State enters its Week 6 bye off an upset win over then-ranked Texas A&M on the road and under the lights.
The Bulldogs sit at 3-2 on the year and 1-1 in SEC play. The story of the first few weeks has been one of Jekyll and Hyde.
On the one hand, the Bulldogs rose to the occasion and played 2 good, complete games. On the other, they allowed big plays, had momentary lapses and put themselves in late holes, completing a comeback only once.
Following the bye, the Bulldogs play 6 of their 7 remaining games against SEC opponents. The lone nonconference game remaining is against Tennessee State in Starkville 1 week prior to the Egg Bowl.
I don’t think it’s a scorching hot take to say that Mississippi State is staring down a gauntlet.
Five of those 6 SEC games are against teams that are currently ranked: Alabama (1), Kentucky (16), Arkansas (13), Auburn (18) and Ole Miss (17). The only unranked SEC opponent the Bulldogs have after the bye is Vanderbilt, widely considered one of the worst programs in the FBS.
Although it’s unlikely that all of those teams will remain ranked by the time the Bulldogs face them, the point remains — this schedule is serious.
Let’s take a look at the remaining October schedule and give a preliminary prediction.
Alabama is coached by a man you may have heard of named Nick Saban. They are, as a program, as good as almost any college team has ever been at anything. The Crimson Tide has appeared in every College Football Playoff since its inception.
In 2020 Alabama receiver DeVonta Smith won the school’s 3rd Heisman Trophy en route to one of the greatest offensive performances in college football history and a national championship. You all know the deal.
However, the Tide appeared to be evenly matched in a close win over Florida in The Swamp a few weeks back. Sophomore quarterback Bryce Young is a Heisman contender, but he is also learning on the fly.
While Ole Miss is not built to contend with a team like the Crimson Tide, the Mississippi State Bulldogs are — at least enough to make it interesting.
We’ll preview this one in more depth next week. But I’ll be picking the Tide to win by double digits, though it will feel close for a while.
Since James Franklin left for Penn State, the Commodores have been trying to stop the bleeding and return to the competitive level that Franklin had them at.
This season, they have a pulse, but they will not scare contenders in any way. As I write this, Vanderbilt is 2-3 with wins over Colorado State and UConn (probably the worst team in FBS) and losses to Stanford, East Tennessee State and an enormous one to Georgia.
I expect Vanderbilt to put up a fight defensively before the repetition of the Air Raid offense wears it down. Offensively, this game, unfortunately, smells of one where we see the Mr. Hyde Bulldogs who showed up against Louisiana Tech, Memphis and LSU. I’ll take MSU, but it’ll be much closer than it should be.
It always feels to me like Kentucky is both the most misunderstood team in the SEC and the hardest to predict year to year.
The Wildcats recently upset Florida in Lexington for the 2nd time in 5 years. Kentucky has recently sent some absolute studs to the NFL, including arguably the best receiver in the world in Davante Adams and former top-10 pick Josh Allen (the defensive end).
Before facing the Bulldogs, Kentucky hosts LSU, and it travels between the hedges for the CBS afternoon game against Georgia and one of the best defenses in years, if not longer.
Then, the Wildcats have a bye.
This is a spot where the Dr. Jekyll Bulldogs (that’s the good one) must show up. Kentucky’s defense looks good, the Wildcats look well-coached, and they’ll have circled Mississippi State as a winnable road game, which is hard to find in the SEC.
I like the Wildcats here, but I want to see how UK plays against Georgia and how MSU plays against Alabama.
Right now, I think I have Mississippi State at 6-6 on the year, but more on that as the weeks roll by. Until then, enjoy the bye week as a winning program.