This wasn’t the Mississippi State paper tiger of two years ago where the Bulldogs went 7-0 before falling completely off the rails. This was different. Though State would ultimately lose two games down the stretch to fall out of the playoff hunt, it should do nothing to diminish the accomplishment of having reached No. 1 in the polls for the first time in school history.
Best win: There were a few to choose from, but how do you forget your first? Going on the road to LSU and beating the Tigers was special. It sent a message that Mississippi State was a real contender. It also introduced college football to Dak Prescott, who stiff-armed his way to 373 total yards of offense.
Worst loss: Losing at Alabama was almost understandable. But laying down against Ole Miss? That was unforgivable. The Rebs no longer had their best player and were coming off a 30-0 beatdown at the hands of Arkansas. They had nothing to play for while the Bulldogs still had playoff hopes to cling to. So how do you explain a 14-point loss? You can’t. Mississippi State had the momentum and the motivation but ultimately laid down in Oxford.
Player of the year: He may not have ended up with a trip to New York City, but for much of the season Prescott was a legitimate Heisman Trophy contender. The 6-foot-2, 235-pound athlete was the face of the Bulldogs, and with good reason. Even with a poor end to the regular season, he finished with 37 total touchdowns and just shy of 3,000 yards passing.
Breakout player: Josh Robinson wasn’t even guaranteed the starting job. If he wanted, coach Dan Mullen could have turned to either Nick Griffin, Brandon Holloway or Ashton Shumpert at running back instead. But Robinson wouldn’t be denied. The same back who rushed for only 459 yards as a sophomore, flourished as a junior, running for 1,128 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Play of the year: They call him a bowling ball, but Robinson showed off a great set of hands with this 47-yard reception.
2015 outlook: A lot depends on the draft as Robinson and linebacker Benardrick McKinney both have a chance to play in the NFL. But even so, Mississippi State will lose a large chunk of its nucleus with as many as 15 players on the two-deep depth chart set to graduate. The return of Prescott and wide receiver De’Runnya Wilson will help, but there’s a chance that some members of Mississippi State’s 2015 recruiting class, which ranks 11th in the country according to ESPN, could be called on to fill the coffers as freshmen.