BRAD LOCKE: Mullen has built expectations in Starkville

By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal

This is where a guy like me is supposed to make a prediction about Mississippi State’s upcoming season. While I’m loathe to make predictions, I’ll indulge the masses before this column is finished.
Because nobody has a clue how this 2011 season is really going to play out. Those who traffic in maroon-colored glasses will tell you that MSU is bound for a double-digit win season and a berth in the SEC championship game.
The more cynical observers look at that imposing SEC schedule and at the history books and say the Bulldogs will be doing good to become bowl-eligible.
Then there’s everyone else, those who tend to be reasonable and, regardless of their loyalties, foresee seven or eight wins, maybe nine if the breaks fall MSU’s way.
My assertion that seven or eight wins is the opinion of reasonable people means that’s what I believe to be reasonable. So I guess I’ve made my semi-bold prediction for Mississippi State: Either 7-5 or 8-4, with a mid-level bowl berth.
Of course, I wouldn’t be too surprised by any sort of finish on either side of that.
I’ll be a little more adamant about this, though: I’d be stunned to see regression this season. I can’t think of a logical reason why that would happen.
Then again, applying logic to college football is why I always finish in the cellar on our Pigskin Picks. But there are so many weapons back on offense, the defensive scheme has proven effective, and Dan Mullen simply knows how to coach.
If that’s all Mullen knew how to do, that would be good for MSU. He goes well beyond mere X’s and O’s, however, and appears to be a master at both motivation and marketing, and there is a general feeling around this program that the Bulldogs are on the brink of something special.
To make something special happen, Mullen will need to start beating teams in MSU’s own division. He’s 2-8 against Western Division teams in his first two years, and both of those wins came against Ole Miss. So until that happens, MSU will at best be spinning its wheels.
And while eight or nine wins per year would be a huge step forward, Mullen has greater things in mind. The fans, in turn, are starting to envision greater things. They have invested a lot of faith in Mullen.
Which means he’d better deliver. Mullen’s built up these expectations through both word and deed, and winning only five or six games would give the cynics reason to crow.
That’s a guarantee.
Brad Locke (brad.locke@journalinc.com) covers Mississippi State for the Daily Journal and blogs daily at NEMS360.com.