Don’t fall asleep on Mississippi State’s chances of capturing the SEC West title
It’s reasonable to assume Alabama — which could vault to the No. 1 spot in Tuesday’s College Football Playoff rankings — will be prohibitive favorites against Mississippi State (Saturday), Charleston Southern (Nov. 21), Auburn (Nov. 28) and then Florida in the SEC title game (Dec. 5).
It’s also easy to predict that Nick Saban will go viral in roughly 11 days, taking demonstrative exception to any press-conference question presuming an SEC championship for his program.
That’s how the master motivator rolls in mid-November … and everyone in the media happily accepts it.
But let’s flip the script here: What if Mississippi State (7-2, 3-2 SEC) pulls off a landmark upset on Saturday, evoking memories of the Bulldogs’ 1980 shakedown of iconic coach Bear Bryant and the Tide, who were riding a 28-game winning streak heading into that November day in Jackson, Miss.? (The final: A run-heavy-era score of 6-3.)
And what if quarterback Dak Prescott (2,769 total yards, 25 total TDs, 1 INT) exclusively carries Mississippi State on his back to victory? Could one transcendent outing trump a season-long existence of flying below the Heisman radar, often deferring to front-runners like Fournette, Boykin, Derrick Henry, Elliot, Coleman, Christian McCaffrey (Stanford tailback) and Deshaun Watson?
After all, if the power of one middling performance against Alabama can potentially derail Fournette’s Heisman campaign … wouldn’t the reverse be true, as well?
Back to Mississippi State: It might have been fun for the season’s first two months, playing a respectable schedule without any external pressure of preserving a top-5 or even No. 1 ranking (like last year). But the Ole Miss defeat from Saturday changed everything inside the Magnolia State, shifting the We Control Our Own Destiny rationalizations from Oxford to Starkville.
But none of this matters if Mississippi State doesn’t break its seven-year losing skid against Alabama; and that’s a tough pill to swallow for some fans, considering the Bulldogs have had the good fortune of playing the Crimson Tide immediately after LSU seven times since 2007 — otherwise known as the “trap game” slot. (Cue Admiral Akbar.)