By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
Let’s play the what-if game. That’s not something I’m normally into, but this weekend presents a pretty huge what-if scenario for No. 13 Mississippi State. If it can knock off No. 1 Alabama in Tuscaloosa on Saturday, then not only will the college football landscape be violently tilted, but the direction of MSU’s program will make an epic leap.
Before I go any further, let me be clear: I don’t see MSU winning this game. This is certainly the best shot it’s had since last beating the Crimson Tide in 2007, but I can’t logically pick against Nick Saban’s team.
However, I’ve watched enough football to know that this is far from an impossible task for State.
So for the purposes of this exercise, put yourself in this hypothetical moment: The clock hits all zeros at Bryant-Denny Stadium, and a small band of MSU fans cheers wildly as the rest of the stadium sits in stunned silence. Players are skipping across the field, Dan Mullen is raising his right fist into the night sky, and the cynics are left scratching their heads.
The Bulldogs would be 8-0 and would jump into the top 10 of the rankings – maybe the top five. They’d have the inside track on the Western Division title, and suddenly the talk of winning a national title wouldn’t seem so far-fetched.
MSU’s players and coaches know the implications of a win and have pondered the possibilities.
“It’s gonna be huge. We’ll be 8-0, we’ll be excited,” senior linebacker Cam Lawrence said. “We’ll enjoy the win, but we’ll get ready for Texas A&M right after that.”
Defensive coordinator Chris Wilson said, “For us, it’ll be an exciting 24 hours.”
After that window closes, of course, MSU would have to let go of that win for now and move on. But the effects would still be felt for a long time both inside and outside the program, especially if the Bulldogs were able to build off beating Bama.
It would validate Mullen’s talk of competing for an SEC championship, which has been a major selling point of his on the recruiting trail. It’s what helped him hold on to Tyler Russell in 2009, when the quarterback briefly decommitted from MSU.
“I could’ve been anywhere else,” Russell said, “but I came to Mississippi State, we’re 7-0, and this is the reason I came to State.”
If the Bulldogs win Saturday, it’s only one win, sure. More must follow, and the two games after Alabama – versus Texas A&M and at LSU – could be real buzzkills.
But a win would open up possibilities that to this point have been mere fantasy, and it would give substance to what Mullen has been saying about being a contender.
For MSU, the if can get no bigger.
Brad Locke (firstname.lastname@example.org) covers Mississippi State for the Daily Journal and blogs daily at DJournal.com.