Forget the gimmicks; Bulldogs must get better

By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal

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Mississippi State football is severely lacking in substance. The No. 17-ranked Bulldogs took to Scott Field on a sunny Saturday sporting slick white-and-silver uniforms, commemorating the 2000 Independence Bowl. In that game, MSU beat Texas A&M in a snowstorm.
The Twitter hashtag #SNOWBOWL12 graced the north end zone. When the Bulldogs exited the tunnel just before kickoff, a small machine spat fake snow over their heads.
Cool.
Then, once the actual football game began, a good old tailwhipping ensued. Texas A&M left with an easy 38-13 win, piling up 693 yards of offense as quarterback Johnny “Football” Manziel ran wild to the tune of 440 total yards.
That kid is as athletic as they come. Marketable, too. Speaking of marketing, give MSU’s marketing team credit for coming up with some cool ideas, especially in the realm of social media and billboards. That has garnered the program a lot of attention, even some national attention.
But hashtags and cool uniforms are ultimately gimmicks, and they aren’t going to help head coach Dan Mullen one little bit. He needs better talent, better coaching and better game plans.
The Bulldogs stepped onto the big stage and promptly stumbled headfirst into the orchestral pit. This is fact: They’ve defeated not one team of note this season.
In his three-plus seasons, Mullen is 2-15 against top-25 teams, and he’s lost nine in a row since beating 22nd-ranked Florida in 2010. The other win was in 2009, against No. 25 Ole Miss.
He’s 4-7 in November, with only three wins over SEC teams in that month – all of those against Ole Miss.
PROGRESS, BUT …
Has this program made progress under Mullen? No question – let’s not forget how bad it was when he took over.
But who honestly believes this team is significantly closer to competing for the SEC Western Division title than it was in 2009? Mullen is 4-14 against the West, and again, thank God for Ole Miss.
There isn’t enough substance to this program yet to believe championships are a viable goal. MSU is clearly not a top-25 team, and as many suspected, that opening seven-game stretch was fool’s gold. Real competition has exposed State as a mediocre team, at best.
The defensive issues are especially troubling. MSU didn’t give up 400 yards to anyone last year, but it’s done so three times this season (Troy, Alabama, A&M).
I wrote last week about how the final four-game stretch would define MSU, especially defensively. I really wanted to ask defensive coordinator Chris Wilson about the troubles, but he was (again) not made available after the game.
So we asked Mullen about the troubles his team has had the last couple of weeks. Credit him for shouldering all the blame, but his answers were non-specific and empty.
No substance.

Brad Locke (brad.locke@journalinc.com) covers Mississippi State for the Daily Journal and blogs daily at DJournal.com / InsideMSUsports.com