Playing in the SEC West means playing a handful of ranked opponents each and every season, and Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen has been absolutely dreadful against ranked foes in his five seasons in Starkville.

The Bulldogs’ schedule has never been kind to their head coach. The team has played at least three ranked opponents in each of Mullen’s five season with the Bulldogs, and in three of those five seasons MSU played five different ranked opponents in a 12-game regular season.

But the only thing as consistent as MSU’s strength of schedule has been Mullen’s struggles against ranked opponents.

Mullen is a dismal 2-21 against ranked teams since 2009. In those 23 games Mississippi State has scored 20-or-more points just six times; the Bulldogs allowed more than 20 points in 18 of those games.

Granted, these opponents are ranked for a reason. Losing is not part of the equation for many of the nation’s top teams, and most coaches have a sub-500 record against ranked opponents as a result. Mullen is far from alone in his struggles against ranked teams.

But Mississippi State has actually struggled more as Mullen’s tenure in Starkville has progressed.

The Bulldogs lost all 12 of their games against ranked teams over the last three years, and have lost 14 straight games to ranked teams dating back to 2010. Over the course of that losing streak, MSU has been outscored by a combined score of 467-213.

This all came after Mullen won two of his first eight games against ranked competition, setting the bar high with a 41-27 win over then-No. 20 Ole Miss in 2009 and a 10-7 win over then No. 22 Florida in early 2010.

That win over Ole Miss was Mullen’s only win over a ranked SEC West opponent in 16 tries. He is 0-10 against ranked Alabama and LSU squads, 0-2 against ranked Texas A&M teams since the Aggies joined the West in 2012, 0-2 against ranked Arkansas teams and 0-1 against ranked Auburn teams (the Tigers hadn’t broken into the top-25 when they beat MSU 24-20 last season).

That is all to say the Bulldogs’ head coach has not closed the gap on his fellow SEC West rivals over the last five years. To be the best a team must beat the best, and no one gets as many shots at the nation’s best every year as Dan Mullen and Mississippi State.

This year the Bulldogs will have plenty of chances to remedy their struggles against ranked opponents. Five SEC West teams earned spots in the initial preseason USA Today Coaches Poll (MSU and Arkansas are the division’s lone unranked teams), meaning MSU will have to sink or swim against ranked foes if it wishes to take the next step toward joining the nation’s elite.