We continue our "One good reason" series by looking at the Mississippi State Bulldogs.
Let's see what the Bulldogs might do this fall:
Mississippi State will get double-digit wins: The first half of the schedule works in the Bulldogs' favor.
The key to an exceptional run by Mississippi State this fall hinges on Week 2 of the season. That's when the Bulldogs host an Auburn team that barely slipped by this group a year ago. That game changed everything for the Bulldogs last year, and it could do the same again this time around. A win in Starkville over the Tigers would probably ensure that Mississippi State will leave September unblemished. Jackson State, Troy and South Alabama round out the first month of competition. October then features the likes of Kentucky and Middle Tennessee, two teams Mississippi State should be favored against, but the Bulldogs also must play Tennessee (at home) and at Alabama. Certainly, these aren't guaranteed wins by any means, but that game against Tennessee should be fun to watch.
If the Bulldogs, who return a handful of solid pieces on both offense and defense, can knock off the Vols at home, they could be 7-0 heading into the month-ending bout with Alabama. That's a tough road game for Tennessee, and by that time we might truly know what the Vols will offer this fall.
A 7-0 start means Mississippi State needs just three more wins, including the bowl game, to reach a double-digit win total for the first time since 1999. With Alabama rounding out the month, Mississippi State has to beat Tennessee if it plans to reach this goal.
Why it won't: The teeth of the schedule reside in November.
Even if the Bulldogs make it to the Alabama game unbeaten, November is just around the corner, and it brings some tough games. Texas A&M heads to Starkville to start the month. We still aren't sure what the Aggies will do in their first year in the SEC, but it's likely they won't be pushovers for anyone. Mississippi State could be favored in this one, but as of now, it could go either way. Still, let's say the Bulldogs do win, well, they'll then get back-to-back games against LSU (on the road) and Arkansas. Those are two legitimate SEC contenders and possible national championship contenders. Can the Bulldogs at least split them? It's going to be hard, especially if both are barreling toward the SEC West title at season's end.
Then there's Ole Miss. The Bulldogs haven't lost to Ole Miss since 2008, and the Rebels are limping into the 2012 season. But this game is in Oxford and the program is under a new regime. Hugh Freeze will be looking to generate some sort of momentum for the program. What better way than beating your arch-rival? While I still think Mississippi State will be favored and has the upper hand in the talent department, this isn't exactly a given.
Getting to November 7-1 means the Bulldogs have to win three of their next five to get to 10 wins. That probably means that they'll have to beat Texas A&M and Ole Miss. Mississippi State might have the better team both weeks, but neither can be considered locks right now and a slip up is quite possible.