Of the four remaining undefeated teams in the SEC, the one getting the least attention is the Mississippi St. Bulldogs. At 5-0 and already with two victories in-conference, the Bulldogs are in the middle of what is shaping into the best year of the team’s revival. They have made it to the bowls the past two seasons, and a win this weekend against the Tennessee Volunteers will make them bowl eligible for this season. So why isn’t this team getting a ton of attention?
The Bulldogs’ schedule thus far plays a major part in why people aren’t convinced that this unbeaten is worth their time. To be fair, the schedule has been pretty lousy. The Bulldogs have won three of their four non-conference games, those wins coming against the Jackson State Tigers, Troy Trojans, and South Alabama Jaguars. These teams have a combined record of 6-11 and the Tigers are in the FCS.
The final remaining non-conference game isn’t much more of a high-profile game, but it is bigger than the previous three. Against the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders, the Bulldogs at least face a team that has a win over a major conference team with the Blue Raiders running all over the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets of the ACC earlier this year by a score of 49-28. No undefeated team gets recognition for their non-conference schedule unless it’s tough, and the Bulldogs’ schedule outside of the SEC this year hasn’t been.
Even the Bulldogs’ two SEC wins already have diminished in value. The wins came against the Auburn Tigers and Kentucky Wildcats, and already events have shown that neither team are going to mean anything to the SEC title chase, and both may not even make the bowls. With the Tigers at 1-4 and the Wildcats at 1-5, both teams are treading the line between being bowl eligible and staying home right after November.
Forgetting the records and impressions made by both of the Bulldogs’ SEC victims, the wins themselves weren’t very impressive. Yes, both were by double digits, but aside from that they were fairly unimpressive wins.
Against the Tigers, the Bulldogs relied on a huge second half to get that win, scoring 21 of their 28 points in the final thirty minutes. Against the Wildcats, they had a fine first half, but their offense scored on their first drive in the second half and spent basically the rest of the game punting the ball away.
The Bulldogs are about to begin a month-long stretch that will test not only their endurance in the face of very credible competition, but will also test if they are for real or not. Tomorrow they get the Volunteers, followed by their non-conference game against the Blue Raiders, this will be followed by road games against the Alabama Crimson Tide and LSU Tigers, and a home game against the Texas A&M Aggies. So you have a conference opponent with a very weak defense, but a fine offense, a non-conference team who has beaten a team from a BCS automatic qualifier conference already this year, the #1 team in the country, last year’s SEC champions, and a newcomer to the conference who has demonstrated that they should be fine in their new surroundings.
Yeah, it’s going to be next to impossible for the Bulldogs to remain undefeated through all of this. And it’s going to be extremely hard for the Bulldogs to come out of this stretch without major damage done to their season, if only by what their record ends up being this time next month.
The game Saturday against the Volunteers is a perfect opportunity for the Bulldogs to make their statement to the nation about being an undefeated team worthy of admiration or respect. The Volunteers’ defense is performing very poorly thus far in conference and while their numbers haven’t been off-the-wall up to now, it will be up to Bulldogs quarterback Tyler Russell and running back LaDarius Perkins to have the kind of off-the-wall day that kicks this offense into a higher gear as tougher challenges lay ahead.
The jury is still out on the Bulldogs. Saturday will officially begin deliberation.