Posted: 11:00 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 20, 2013
Last night as a banged up and depleted Ole Miss squad continued to stay in a game with the then No. 6 ranked LSU Tigers, most Mississippi State fans probably shared a few of the same thoughts. Most probably wanted to see LSU come back and win that game, and most probably longed for a game where they could watch the Bulldogs battle in what feels like a winnable game against a top-ten opponent. When the final kick sailed through the uprights, giving the Rebels a victory, most Mississippi State fans probably wondered when they would celebrate such a win.
The Rebels' victory this weekend should apply more pressure to Mississippi State to provide that moment for their fans.
For the Bulldogs, such a win has not occurred since September 30, 2000. On that day, the Florida Gators came to Starkville ranked No. 3 in the country. The Bulldogs, coming off of a disheartening loss to the South Carolina Gamecocks in Columbia, picked up a 47-35 win over the Gators. At the time, Mississippi State had been competing with and defeating top teams in the SEC, and it did not seem like such wins would become rare again.
However, it has now been over thirteen years since Mississippi State picked up such a win. In fact, the freshman class at Mississippi State had not even started elementary school when Mississippi State last pulled off such a feat, one accomplished by the Bulldogs eight times in school history.
No. 8 Florida
No. 1 Alabama
No. 6 LSU
No. 9 LSU
No. 8 Tennessee
No. 8 Alabama
No. 9 Arkansas
No. 3 Florida
In fact in the time since Mississippi State has last defeated a top-ten team, Ole Miss has pulled of nearly as many victories over top-ten teams as Mississippi State has in its entire football history. In that time, Ole Miss has defeated No. 6 Florida (2002), No. 4 Florida (2008), No. 7 Texas Tech (2009 Cotton Bowl), No. 8 LSU (2009), No. 6 LSU (2013).
One has to wonder if this will crank up more pressure on Dan Mullen to pick up a "signature" win in the near future. The Bulldogs will have a few such opportunities in 2013 with games against South Carolina and Texas A&M on the schedule, but the value of those wins have been diminished this weekend. The grandest chance comes when Alabama comes to town, but knocking off the Crimson Tide will be a tall order.
In addition to wanting to gain a signature win, Mullen and the Bulldogs should feel more pressure now to win the Battle for the Golden Egg. Ole Miss has looked good on national television two weeks in a row (last week's last second loss to Texas A&M), and the Rebels have more opportunity to shine through 2013. The Rebels should finish no worse than 7-5, and if they can defeat Missouri in Oxford on Nov. 23, Ole Miss could run the table to finish 9-3.
Ole Miss does not seem to hold the edge in a massive talent gap over Mississippi State. The Rebels do not hold a mighty edge in anything that would suggest that they are a vastly superior program to the Bulldogs right now, but over the last two years, they have produced big moments and have started to build such a perception.
Momentum plays a vitally important role in the Magnolia State. In the recruiting wars, each school wants to look like the one where players can come to campus, play, and immediately win. Among the fans, both want to have calendar long bragging rights over the other.
Since 2012, it has felt like Hugh Freeze has pushed the right buttons by bringing in a solid recruiting class and picking up important wins on the field for Ole Miss. Since 2012, the Mississippi State Bulldogs have felt like a program stuck in neutral. Now, the Bulldogs must figure out how to get back into drive in Starkville to avoid falling far behind in the race in Mississippi and the SEC.
The good news is that if Ole Miss can start moving in the right direction, there is no reason the Bulldogs cannot do the same. Instead of being deflated by the Ole Miss win, Mississippi State should see it as proof that the Bulldogs can continue improvement in the SEC.