By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
All Mississippi State can do now is forget and move on. Saturday’s game against No. 1 Alabama was one most people had marked down as a loss for MSU, and while the game’s beginning was discouraging, there shouldn’t be too much grieving over it.
Besides, four very tough games lie ahead, and the Bulldogs can’t let this loss linger past today.
This game marked the beginning of the second part of State’s schedule.
Those first seven games were a prelude to this closing stretch, which is when we’ll really learn something about this team and how far it’s come in Dan Mullen’s tenure.
In just six days, new SEC member Texas A&M comes to Starkville. The Aggies have acquitted themselves well thus far behind sensational freshman quarter- back Johnny Manziel.
After that, it’s a road trip to LSU, and that’s another game most of us have marked as a loss for MSU. While the Tigers have looked vulnerable, that game is in Tiger Stadium, a place MSU hasn’t won since 1991.
Then it’s Arkansas at home, and despite that team’s struggles, it’s still got a dangerous offense.
The regular-season closer is the Egg Bowl, of course, and Ole Miss just beat Arkansas in Little Rock on Saturday to draw within one game of bowl eligibility.
Earning a BCS bowl bid will be tough, but I imagine a trip to, say, the Cotton Bowl will sit well with fans. A 10-win regular season is a very reasonable expectation.
But it’s hardly guaranteed. In the eyes of many, this Alabama loss validates the criticisms of MSU and its soft opening slate in the eyes of some. A stumble down the closing stretch would validate those criticisms in the eyes of all.
Mullen has said from Day 1 that his goal is to have MSU competing for the SEC Western Division title. And while that’s still mathematically possible this season, it’s highly unlikely.
In lieu of that, the Bulldogs must show the critics that they’re getting closer to being contenders. They can do that by putting this game behind them and finishing strong. That will earn MSU the respect it’s been seeking.
Maybe next year MSU can beat Alabama; maybe not. Until that opportunity comes back around, this team needs to keep moving forward.
Brad Locke (email@example.com) blogs daily about Mississippi State at DJournal.com.