The talented, always informative, and when-does-he-sleep Bill Connelly of SB Nation fired up his writing and stats machine to profile Mississippi State under Dan Mullen in his ongoing "10 Things To Know" series. The series, which is nicely sucking up the mass of free time until football starts, focuses on a team's level of play in the past few years and whether or not said team's fans should be hopeful or even bother getting out of bed next season.
His conclusion about Mullen and my thoughts on Mullen are pretty much the same. Mullen has made Mississippi State a competent football program and, barring a meltdown of meltdowns, will not allow State to slip back into the final days of the Jackie Sherrill and the Sylvester Croom eras.
But, Mullen has also sort of started to level off, which is not necessarily a bad thing. He's trimmed away most of the terribleness, and now has State sitting in a position that, with the right mix of talent, experience, favorable schedule, and general good fortune, he could get a 10 or 11-win season every four or five years, while regularly cranking out 7 to 8-win seasons
Sure, a losing season could pop up with the same frequency as a 10 or 11-win season, but all signs point to it not becoming a regular visitor. But could 2013 be one of those unwelcome visitor losing seasons?
Take a look at State's schedule:
Oklahoma State (Houston)
at South Carolina
at Texas A&M (SNOW BOWL 2.0 GO SHREVEPORT)
I see five more than likely wins (Alcorn, Auburn, Troy, Bowling Green, and Kentucky). Two 50/50-ish games (Arkansas - State never plays well there - and Ole Miss) and five more than likely losses (OK State, LSU, South Carolina, Alabama, and Texas A&M).
Add to the schedule that State lost its top two corners (second round NFL corners), one starting safety, leading tackler, two defensive tackles who started or played a lot, and two back-up defensive ends from a defense that wasn't that good in the last half of the season. Oh, and the offense lost its top three wide receivers, and a tight end who was tied for fourth on the team in receptions.
I know very little about a lot of things, but one truth I have learned is that lack of experience is usually a horrible thing to go through (only bested by lack of talent). This means Dan Mullen and his coaches have to find capable contributors and find them quickly.
Fortunately for him and his staff, there is some talent there, particularly on the defensive line. But, if things do go bad in 2013 for Mullen, he's got three old friends that should be able to step in to the depth chart and make everyone temporarily forget some of those struggles.