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Mizzou Moves To The SEC: Mississippi State Football Caught In The Undertow

STARKVILLE, MS - SEPTEMBER 15:  Coach Dan Mullens of the Mississippi State Bulldogs leads the team onto the field to start the game against LSU on September 15, 2011 at Davis Wade stadium in Starkville, Mississippi. (Photo by Butch Dill/Getty Images)
STARKVILLE, MS - SEPTEMBER 15: Coach Dan Mullens of the Mississippi State Bulldogs leads the team onto the field to start the game against LSU on September 15, 2011 at Davis Wade stadium in Starkville, Mississippi. (Photo by Butch Dill/Getty Images)
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From Auburn, we now circle back, 244 miles to the northwest, to Starkville, Mississippi. It's Mississippi State Week!

Mississippi State's Percentile Performance Since 1921 (according to S&P+ and Est. S&P+).
The dotted black line is the school's ten-year average.
For more on Est. S&P+, start here.

(Original helmet photo via

The SEC is the best, most consistently deep football conference in the country. Of that, there is no doubt. But that doesn't mean that every program has had its day atop the college football universe. Mississippi State has a deep set of unique traditions -- the Egg Bowl and those damned cowbells, to name two -- and has dealt with high expectations from time to time, but the Bulldogs have not quite seen the success of other conference rivals. They have finished in the AP Top 10 just once (after a 10-0-1, Orange Bowl-winning campaign in 1940) and have attended a small handful of 'major' bowls since (2011 Gator Bowl, 1999 Cotton Bowl, some Peach Bowls, and a couple of Sun Bowls, if we're counting those). That said, they have won 16 games in the last two seasons under Dan Mullen, Urban Meyer's former offensive coordinator, and they are positioning themselves somewhere between "tough out" and "consistent Top 25 team."

Worst Five-Year Span

1927-31. Like Auburn and other programs we have yet to discuss, it took the Bulldogs a little while to get established as a football school. The Bulldogs went 24-8-2 under William Chadwick from 1910-13 and 15-5 under Sid Robinson from 1917-19, but as college football established itself in the 1920s, it began to leave the folks from Starkville behind. Under three different coaches, MSU went just 17-39-5 from 1928-34. They did, however, experience a renaissance beginning in 1935. Despite what the numbers say, one could make a very strong case that the program's best run began in 1935, when Ralph Sassie spearheaded an 8-3 season. MSU would go 7-3-1 in 1936 (with an Orange Bowl loss), 5-4-1 in 1937, 8-2 in 1939 (now under Allyn McKeen), 10-0-1 in 1940, and a combined 43-13-2 from 1941-47.

Best Ten-Year Span

1957-66. Here's where numbers and schedule adjustments tell a funny tale. How strong was the SEC in the late-1950s and early-1960s? Mississippi State experienced just two winning seasons from 1957-66 but, when adjusted for schedule strength, still graded out as a Top 25 team five times in that span. Ole Miss was at its peak, Auburn and LSU both won national titles, Alabama reestablished itself under Bear Bryant, Georgia Tech was still strong (and in the SEC), et cetera. This conference was perhaps more loaded then than it is now, and MSU got caught up a bit in the undertow. (Hell, even Memphis was damn good at this point.) Still, the Bulldogs did finished 14th in 1957 and, in their second season under Paul Davis, won the Liberty Bowl, 16-12 over N.C. State, in 1963.

Since then, things have been hit-or-miss. After the 1963 season, Davis went just 10-20 in three seasons and was dumped in favor of Charles Shira, who went 16-45-2 in six years. Bob Tyler came aboard, led them to a Sun Bowl title and a 9-3 season in 1974, then got the Bulldogs placed on probation. MSU went 14-8 on the field in 1976-77 but officially went 0-22.

Emory Bellard, who invented the Wishbone while an assistant at Texas, led the Bulldogs to a 17-7 record in 1980-81 (they were picked 14th in the 1981 preseason polls and rose as high as seventh, but lost to, among other teams, Missouri), then faded. Jackie Sherrill generated seven seasons of seven or more wins in a 10-year span, but, being Jackie Sherrill, left with MSU on probation in 2003. Sylvester Croom cleaned up the program but didn't win much (eight wins in 2007, 13 in his other four years), and Mullen took over in 2009.

Retired Numbers And Statues

No Mississippi State jerseys have officially been retired, but No. 21 is currently out of circulation in honor of the late Keffer McGee, who died in a swimming accident in August 1997. As for statues around the stadium, it doesn't appear there are any, at least of humans. If you want to see a bulldog statue, however, you're in luck.


MSU plays its home games on Scott Field at Davis Wade Stadium. Capacity: 55,000 and change. However, a six-thousand seat expansion is in the works and should be complete by 2014.

Mississippi State On YouTube

Ten semi-random highlights via the YouTubes:

Program highlights, from 1941-00.
MSU takes out Georgetown (in spectacular jerseys, no less) to win the 1941 Orange Bowl
A late goalie stand leads to a historic upset of Bear Bryant and Alabama in 1980.
Two late scores give Mississippi State a win over Arkansas and the SEC West title in 1998.
MSU acquits itself well against Tennessee in the 1998 SEC Championship but falls short.
Two late scores give Mississippi State a crazy win in the 1999 Egg Bowl.
God bless the 2000 Snow Bowl. (Full game here.)
Get used to cowbells. Oh god, get used to cowbells.
MSU romps over Michigan in the 2011 Gator Bowl.
Recent Egg Bowls have been rather kind to MSU.


View their statistical profile here. MSU is stuck in the toughest division in college football and could take a step backwards after losing quite a few difference makers, including defensive tackle Fletcher Cox and running back Vick Ballard.

Five Interesting Returnees On Offense
QB Tyler Russell (1,034 yards, 54 percent completion rate, 8 TD, 4 INT)
RB LaDarius Perkins (422 rushing yards, 59 receiving yards)
WR Arceto Clark (442 receiving yards, 8.3 per target)
WR Chad Bumphis (339 receiving yards, 7.1 per target, former four-star recruit)
LG Gabe Jackson (26 career starts)

Five Interesting Returnees On Defense
CB Johnthan Banks (8 tackles for loss, 5 interceptions, 9 passes broken up, 3 forced fumbles)
LB Cameron Lawrence (86.5 tackles, 6 tackles for loss, 2 interceptions, 5 passes broken up)
DT Josh Boyd (8 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks)
LB Deontae Skinner (9 tackles for loss, 2 forced fumbles)
DT Dewayne Cherrington (340 pounds, 2.5 tackles for loss)


Missouri's All-Time Series Versus Mississippi State

Undefeated, baby.

  • October 3, 1981: Missouri 14, No. 9 Mississippi State 3 (in Jackson)
    Warren Powers' Tigers move to 4-0 and go from unranked to 13th in the country after shutting down quarterback John Bond, running back Michael Haddix, and the MSU offense.
  • September 22, 1984: Missouri 47, Mississippi State 30 (in Columbia)

    After two gut-wrenching losses, Mizzou found themselves behind 23-14 with 3:00 left in the second quarter against a Mississippi State team that would finish the season 4-7. The Bulldogs had racked up two touchdowns runs of more than 50 yards and were rolling into halftime with almost 300 yards of total offense. Mizzou defenders were yelling at each other on the sideline. Warren Seitz, who had completely outplayed Marlon Adler and taken over the #1 position at quarterback, was knocked out of the game with a rib injury.

    An already shaky season was in danger of completely unraveling. And then Warren Powers coached two and a half perfect quarters.

    It started with a trick play--third-string senior QB Kerry Holloway lined up at fullback, took a handoff from Marlon Adler, ran right, and threw left to a wide-open Adler for 31 yards. That sparked the offense. Adler quickly hit George Shorthose for a 36-yard touchdown to cut the lead to 23-21, and then hit Andy Hill for a big gain to set up a go-ahead field goal right before half.

    Then Powers used nouns and verbs, and probably quite a few choice adverbs, in sparking the defense. A fiery halftime speech got the defense rolling, and Mizzou coasted in the second half. Adler staked his claim to the #1 QB position, finishing the game 15-for-21 for 258 yards and 2 TDs. Hill had 119 yards receiving, and Mizzou had its first win of the year. Bring on Notre Dame!