Mississippi State got whipped in Athens, but don't sell the Bulldogs just yet
I know. It was ugly.
Let’s get off the bandwagon. We got too excited about Mississippi State. All of those mid-week stories about Nick Fitzgerald’s rise and the improved MSU defense were premature. Time to sell the Bulldogs’ stock and try and find another SEC West team that can at least prevent Alabama from running away with the division.
Not so fast.
MSU might not have looked like a team capable of staying in the division race. Georgia was clearly the better team from start to finish. The home Bulldogs could be better than MSU for the rest of 2017.
But Mississippi State’s division chances didn’t die in Athens. They were wounded, sure. And if MSU gets beat at the line of scrimmage like it did Saturday night, it won’t be long before those division chances are really done.
Still, I’m not willing to give up on MSU’s quest to stay relevant in the West. At least not yet.
Don’t get it twisted. Alabama is still the overwhelming West favorite. After what the Tide did in Nashville on Saturday, nobody is questioning that.
But let’s not forget what was said all week. There’s still a favorable path for MSU to head into its November game against Alabama (at home) with just one SEC loss. Even with an undefeated Alabama heading into StarkVegas, everything would be on the line. That’s all you can really ask for.
And no, nothing that happened Saturday night altered that path very much. Auburn is still capable of getting completely dominated by MSU’s defensive line, which didn’t have its best night.
MSU will still likely be favored at home against Kentucky, and while Texas A&M put up a bunch of points in Jerry World on Saturday, the Aggies don’t hold a candle to Georgia’s defense.
Georgia is absolutely legit. Saturday night confirmed that. It took away everything MSU wanted to do.
MSU’s ability to rely on the run was hindered by the fact that it fell behind two touchdowns in the first quarter. It might surprise some that the Bulldogs still ran for 4.8 yards per carry.
The problem was that they were smacked in the mouth from the jump on Saturday night.
As good as Fitzgerald is, the Bulldogs aren’t built to rally with a one-dimensional offense. They just aren’t. And against that Georgia defense? Good luck with that to anyone, Alabama included.
Right now, it’s clear that Alabama and Georgia are the class of the SEC. All signs point to them ending up in Atlanta and playing the most competitive SEC Championship we’ve seen in recent memory.
MSU is not in that class right now. The Bulldogs have plenty of adjustments to make. That’s clear.
But I like the odds of Dan Mullen to make said adjustments after his team was held without a touchdown on Saturday night. He’s too good at what he does not to make those adjustments, especially with someone like Fitzgerald running the offense.
So why should MSU get a mulligan after its blowout loss after LSU was basically cast aside for getting drubbed by the Bulldogs? Well, we’ve actually seen MSU dominate on both sides of the ball against a real Power 5 team. And with all due respect to Ed Orgeron, Mullen’s track record of righting the ship seems like a safer bet.
After Saturday night’s back-to-earth moment, it’s easy to say that the Bulldogs are exactly who we thought they were. They have offensive limitations, the defense struggles against balanced offenses and they don’t have the athletes to stack up against the SEC’s best.
Georgia exposed MSU’s weaknesses. That’ll be the blueprint for MSU’s future foes.
But take a step back and look at the bigger picture. If you can do that, you’ll see that MSU’s path to relevance is still there.