The Mississippi State Bulldogs football program began its first season of play in 1895. They didn’t score their first points until 1901 when they blanked the Ole Miss Rebels 17-0 in their first ever game against the school in Starkville.
This in many ways is an accurate summation of everything that has been Bulldogs football throughout the years, defining itself in one word: struggle. Wins have been hard to come by, and there’s been a lack of comparable talent to the rest of the SEC throughout the years. But every so often there’s a bright spot in the program, one that will be talked about for generations.
The best season in Mississippi State history is their 1940 campaign. The Bulldogs finished 10-0-1 this season, including a 14-7 flagship win over the Georgetown Hoyas in the Orange Bowl. Led by All-American defensive end Ervin “Buddy” Elrod, the ferocious Bulldog defense scored four shutouts that season, including ones over Ole Miss and the Alabama Crimson Tide.
Despite the fact they didn’t lose a game, they weren’t winners of the SEC that season. Their lone tie against the Auburn Tigers enabled the Tennessee Volunteers to win the conference crown in 1940, but they did win their lone conference title the next year in 1941. Indeed, these were the times to be a Mississippi State fan.
The only other comparable season was in 1999. The Bulldogs began the year 8-0, after they squeezed out a two point win at Auburn on the road, then back-to-back one point wins at home against the LSU Tigers and the Kentucky Wildcats.
As college football enters week five, many teams still have plenty to play for, others feel they’ve under-performed. There are several teams who have yet to lose, many of them have yet to be really challenged.
Don’t try to even talk that way around Starkville.
This season is, after all, the first time Mississippi State has started 4-0 since their magical run of 1999. It’s only the second time since 1965 that they’ve started with that mark.
The start has the Bulldog faithful in a frenzy. They’re ranked No. 21 in the Associated Press poll, and No. 19 in the coaches poll. With a game in Lexington against Kentucky, and then home games against Tennessee and the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders on the horizon – all unranked by the way – it is entirely conceivable that Mississippi State could start the year 7-0…something that only happened in the 1999 season.
That run of that 1999 season came to a screeching halt on November 13 when they traveled to Alabama. The Bulldogs just couldn’t get the offense rolling as the Crimson Tide won 19-7. I mention this because if Mississippi State does win its next three, they again will travel to Alabama to play perhaps, what could be, the biggest game in school history against the Tide.
The last time the Bulldogs beat Alabama in Tuscaloosa was November 4, 2006, against a mostly lack-luster squad. But this Alabama team is perhaps one of the best in their history, which is saying quite a bit. Indeed, if Mississippi State are to make this inconceivable jump to the next level, they will have to slay the SEC dragon.
Even if they were to somehow pull out a miracle, two weeks down the road LSU will be waiting in Baton Rouge. The last time the Bulldogs beat both Alabama and LSU in the same season was 1980 when a 9-2 team went on to lose to the Nebraska Cornhuskers in the Sun Bowl.
It’s a lot of history, mixed in with a jambalaya of “what ifs.” But without question the Mississippi State Bulldogs are poised to have a season to remember, one that could be a talking point for generations.