2018 Mississippi State Preview - Moving On From Mullen

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TwinSpires Staff

August 15th, 2018

Unlike the NFL, where someone like Tom Brady can play for a single team his entire career, college football players often leave early, transfer, decide they don’t want to play football all together, or just don’t work out as college students. That’s why when an amazing coach like Nick Saban ends up with an awesome program like Alabama’s, the school often does whatever it can to keep the coach. Players rule at the pro level. Coaches rule at the college level. What’s up with the football history lesson? The reason for the lesson is because  the 2018 Mississippi State Bulldogs head in to the college football betting season without the best asset it’s most likely ever had in Starkville - coach Dan Mullen.

Can Mississippi State Get Over Losing Coach Mullen? Before getting into whether the 2018 Mississippi State Bulldogs can get over losing the best coach they’ve ever had, another football history lesson is on tap. How many SEC Championships do you think the school has won? Take your time.

If you guessed one, you’re right. Mississippi State has won only a single SEC Championship and that happened way back in 1941. That’s the same year the U.S. entered World War II.

Dan Mullen never led the Bulldogs to an SEC Championship. As Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide ruled over the conference, Mullen held Mississippi State together about as well as any other SEC coach could. Nobody can beat Saban over the long haul. That’s just life in the SEC. Despite the challenge, Mississippi State routinely played Alabama as tough as any other program in the SEC West Division.

Mullen had a lot to do with that. The facts speak for themselves. Before Dan Mullen, the best coach in Mississippi State history was Jackie Sherrill. From 1991 through 2000, Sherrill took the Bulldogs to 6 bowl games. Jackie could only get his Mississippi State teams to win 3 of those bowl games.

By comparison, Dan Mullen took Mississippi State to 8 bowl games in 9 years (I’m counting the 2017 Taxslayer Bowl that Greg Knox coached) and walked away with six wins. That makes Mullen the best coach that the Mississippi State Bulldogs have ever had.

Is All Lost in Starkville Without Coach Mullen? We’re talking about a college football program that’s only won a single SEC Championship and that was close to 80 years ago. There is some hope that Mississippi State steps it up without Mullen.

Unlike Jimbo Fisher, who left Florida State in disarray when he left to Texas A&M, Coach Mullen has left Mississippi State in a great position player-wise. Quarterback Nick Fitzgerald throws behind an offensive line with 4 returning starters. The defense returns 7 starters.

Coach Mullen didn’t leave when Mississippi State was at its worst. He actually left to Florida with the 2018 Mississippi State Bulldogs close to their best.

All that the Bulldogs need now is for new head coach Joe Moorhead to maintain the winning culture that Mullen created. Moorhead, Penn State’s former offensive coordinator, has plenty of pieces to field a high-scoring offense. The defense is loaded for new defensive coordinator Bob Shoop.

No doubt the schedule is brutal. Mississippi State must travel to Alabama and LSU this season. They must also battle Florida, Auburn, and travel to underrated Kansas State early. But, if Moorhead and Shoop can just maintain what Mullen has created and add a few of their tweaks without making wholesale changes…who knows?

The 2018 Mississippi State Bulldogs might just be the surprise team in the SEC West Division.