Coleman Corner; 11-1. Yes, I believe Bulldogs are just that good

Joel Coleman

Staff Writer

When you cover Mississippi State athletics for a living, seemingly everyone you meet wants to talk about the Bulldogs.

I sat in the hospital a few days ago after welcoming my second son into the world. Despite the fact a new bundle of joy was in my arms, I had a visitor that only wanted to know one thing – how is MSU going to do on the gridiron in 2018?

I’m about to tell you all the same thing I told him. Mississippi State is going 11-1 in the regular season this year. That wasn’t a typo. I believe the Bulldogs are just that good.

Full disclosure time. I’m not a psychic. As far as I know, I’m not related to Miss Cleo, so you might look at my prediction in three or four months and be able to label me a certified idiot. I don’t think you will though. The Bulldogs are halfway through preseason training camp and if you’re not already, I’m giving you all full permission to get as excited as you’ve ever been about Mississippi State football in 2018.

I know. MSU history is littered with disappointment and unfulfilled expectations. You’ve earned the right to be skeptical. Today though, I want you to consider the facts as to why there is very little chance, outside of major scandal or injury, that this Mississippi State season could get too far off the rails.

Look at the schedule.

How many of those teams are possibly better on paper than MSU? I only see two – Auburn and Alabama.

Of those two games, the only one I’m predicting the Bulldogs to lose is the annual battle with the Crimson Tide. It’s on the road in Tuscaloosa and, let’s be real, MSU hasn’t beaten Alabama in 11 years, so until the Bulldogs do, it’s hard to predict they will.

Now, is Auburn better than State? Probably so, but the game is in Starkville and the Bulldogs are incredibly tough to beat on their home field. That contest will also be Auburn’s first road game of the year with a relatively inexperienced offensive line. It’ll be a tall task for those boys with the cowbells clanging and Jeffery Simmons and Montez Sweat breathing down their necks. Give me the Bulldogs.

As for the other 10 teams on the schedule, I think State is better than every one of them.

LSU? The Bulldogs smoked the Tigers by 30 last year. The game is in Baton Rouge this go-around. That makes things tougher for sure, but that doesn’t make up a 30-point difference – especially when Ed Orgeron is still the guy calling the shots for the Bayou Bengals.

Texas A&M? The Aggies will probably be tough under first-year head coach Jimbo Fisher, but the Bulldogs have found much success against A&M since Johnny Manziel left College Station. Plus, it’s another home game for MSU.

How about Florida? You know. The team with old what’s-his-name as the head coach. Now I do believe Dan Mullen is going to find success eventually with the Gators, but Mullen’s new team in year one isn’t on the level as his old one. I think the Bulldogs blow out the Gators in an emotional contest at Davis Wade Stadium.

Then there’s the Egg Bowl. You never really know what will happen there. Of course Ole Miss beat State a year ago and this year, the game is back in Oxford. The Rebels have all the offensive talent in the world, but Mississippi State is still the better overall football team. If Ole Miss wins again, it’ll have to be another upset. I just don’t see it.

MSU should be a decisive favorite in the other games on its schedule. That’s just what happens when you have a team with this much talent.

In case you’ve forgotten, the Bulldogs had a top-10 defense in the country last season. They’ve brought back pretty much everyone and added impact players as well.

State had the country’s 11th-best rushing offense last year. The three main guys responsible for that – Nick Fitzgerald, Aeris Williams and Kylin Hill – are all back. They should be aided by new head coach Joe Moorhead’s reputation as a guy that likes to throw the ball down the field. If defenses respect that, Fitzgerald, Williams and Hill will have more room to run.

If Moorhead can improve MSU’s passing game just a little bit – something he’s done at virtually every place he’s ever been – State’s offense could be a sight to see.

The Bulldogs are experienced on the offensive line with four returning starters and the one guy that isn’t considered a returning starter – left tackle Greg Eiland – started four games himself a year ago.

To sum it all up, Mississippi State is in as good of a position as you could possibly ask for with just over a couple of weeks to go before the season kicks off.

Yes, there are a couple of questions. Fitzgerald needs to be a more accurate passer than ever before. The Bulldog receivers need to be more productive than a year ago. State still has some uncertainty at cornerback.
However, all teams have questions. The fact is, the Bulldogs have more answers than questions and that is an outstanding place to be.

So go ahead Bulldog fans. Get excited. Dare to dream. If ever an MSU team is going to do something like go 11-1 and threaten to get in the College Football Playoff, this bunch looks like it has as good of a chance as any.
If they do, I’ll come back in this space and say I told you so. If they don’t, well, at least maybe you’ll remember this column and the few minutes of good feelings it hopefully gave you.

Joel Coleman is the Mississippi State beat writer for The Starkville Daily News. The opinions in this column are Coleman and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SDN or its staff.