* MSU will need to win its first SEC opener in 13 years. Seven of the losses have come against Auburn, and that's who MSU opens up league play against this fall, on Sept. 8 in Starkville.
* Dan Mullen will need to get his first win against a Western Division foe not named Ole Miss. And more than one. That first chance comes against Auburn.
* MSU will need to have its first winning mark in the SEC since 1999. The Bulldogs were 2-6 last year and are 9-15 under Mullen.
* MSU will need to start 2-0 overall for the first time since 2000. Again, that involves beating Auburn, and you probably understand how important a game that is in the greater context of this season.
So those are a few things that must happen. And MSU actually should go beyond starting 2-0. The way the schedule is set up, the Bulldogs should at least win their first five games. Beat Tennessee and then Middle Tennessee State, and you're looking at a 7-0 start.
A lot of folks predict anywhere from six to eight wins for MSU this year. I don't put much stock in predictions, but what I will do is look at what games MSU has a reasonable chance of winning. It should be the favored team in each of those first seven games.
After that, of course, things get dicey. There are trips to Alabama and LSU, plus home games versus Texas Aamp&M and Arkansas. The season closes at Ole Miss, and sure the Rebels aren't very good, but it's the Egg Bowl and on the road and crazy stuff happens, man.
Three real challenges
There are only three games you could say MSU should lose: Alabama, LSU and Arkansas. While some people think the Hogs are vulnerable because of the sudden coaching change, that's still the best offense in the SEC. But it's a winnable game for State.
A reasonable person like myself could foresee nine wins for MSU this year, 10 if things fall right. But as we all know, seasons rarely play out like we expect them to, with teams losing or winning games they have no business losing or winning. Injuries happen, suspensions happen, ineffectiveness happens, poor chemistry happens.
All it takes is one terrible moment to derail a promising season. But MSU certainly has a promising season ahead, and that beats the alternative.
Brad Locke (email@example.com) covers Mississippi State for the Daily Journal and blogs daily at NEMS360.com.