As May rolls on, we find ourselves hopelessly stuck in football limbo. The post-spring analysis has been (exhaustively) done, coaches are spread across the country recruiting, and guys like me are desperately seeking any excuse for posting football-related contest.
That's why God created preseason rankings.
Actually, I imagine the first hack who dared compile such rankings months ahead of the season was laughed out of the local speakeasy frequented by his colleagues. "Mel, you've lost your marbles," they said. Well, little did they know that Mel was a super genius, because years later fans would become quite interested in such premature projections. Alas, the term "page hits" meant nothing to those neanderthals.
Anyway, this brings me to the purpose of this entry, which is to gauge what the nation thinks of Mississippi State's football team heading into the 2011 season. Do they think 2010 was a fluke? Do they think Dan Mullen has got this ship going in the right direction? Do they think the Bulldogs are ready to make a big leap?
You'll recall that MSU finished the 2010 season ranked No. 15 in the Associated Press poll and No. 17 in the USA Today coaches poll. Nobody had State in their preseason rankings last year, which is why I put so little stock in these things. But they're harmless fun.
I've gathered up a very small sampling of preseason rankings for your perusal, so let's take a quick look.
• Mark Schlabach of ESPN.com put his rankings out a couple of weeks ago, and MSU slides in there at No. 25. He writes, "With quarterback Chris Relf and tailback Vick Ballard coming back, the Bulldogs will have some firepower on offense."
• Dennis Dodd of CBSSports.com did his rankings last week and has the Bulldogs at No. 20. He said it will be hard for MSU to duplicate nine wins next season.
• Athlon Sports is revealing its preseason rankings one team at a time, and it's made it up to No. 14 so far. No MSU yet, so unless the Athlon folks have an extremely high opinion of the Bulldogs, it doesn't look like they're in that group.
I figure MSU is a top-25 team, probably in the 20-25 range to start the season. It's a good spot to be in. It means people respect your team, but there's still a limited amount of expectation from the outside because folks want to see you do it again.
On the other hand, you can't "sneak up" on anybody, although I've always thought that concept was a bit overblown. Can't sneak up on a team when they've been religiously studying film on you for a full week.
So I now pose the question to you: Where does MSU belong in the preseason rankings?