I prefer hard data, and last year's record plus the talent returning doesn't suffice. There's only so much data you can use when trying to forecast what a bunch of mercurial 18-to-22-year-olds will do on a football field over the course of three months.
Alas, the masses gobble up predictions and whatnot, so I feel obliged to give my best stab at how many games Mississippi State will win in football this autumn. I do so knowing full well I'll likely be way off the mark.
Making such a prediction ultimately begins and ends with studying the schedule and penciling in 'W' or 'L' next to each game. In looking at MSU's schedule, it's very easy to mark 'W' next to each of the first seven games.
There are four cupcake non-SEC contests, one cupcake SEC game (Kentucky), and two swing games that could prove to be the biggest games of the year: Auburn visits Starkville on Sept. 8, and Tennessee comes to town Oct. 13.
Based on what I know - and that knowledge doesn't really extend past the spring because of MSU's closed preseason practices - I predict the Bulldogs will win those two games. But then, I thought they'd beat Auburn last year, and we saw what happened.
The Tigers won't go down easy this year. A lot of experience returns on that defense, and while he is inexperienced, quarterback Kiehl Frazier has a promising future.
Tennessee is down a man, with top receiver Da'Rick Rogers drawing a season-long suspension last week. That will still be a dangerous passing offense, so MSU's vaunted secondary will have to be on its game.
A 7-0 start would send MSU fans into a frenzy, and you can imagine the buzz that would surround State's eighth game of the year, at reigning BCS champ Alabama. And this is where it becomes harder to write 'W.'
I can't see MSU - or many other teams - winning in Tuscaloosa. Or in Baton Rouge, which is where the Bulldogs travel two weeks later after a home date with Texas Aamp&M.
The regular season ends with Arkansas at home and Ole Miss in Oxford. Reason tells me that MSU loses to Arkansas and beats the Rebels.
So I guess that means I predict a 9-3 regular season for MSU. But it's all a bit too tidy, isn't?
I get the feeling State will lose to someone it shouldn't, but I could see an upset on the back end of the schedule (Arkansas?). So while I'll stick with a nine-win prediction, I could make good arguments for anywhere from six to 10 victories.
Real scientific, eh?
Brad Locke (email@example.com) covers Mississippi State for the Daily Journal and blogs daily at DJournal.com.