The 2012 season started off with a bang for the Mississippi State Bulldogs. MSU ran off seven straight wins to begin the campaign, and was ranked 13th in the nation heading into an October 27 showdown against the top-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa.
To say that Mississippi State was dominated would be quite an understatement. Alabama won the game 38-7, with MSU’s only score coming with 4:39 left in the contest. The Bulldogs were only able to rush for 47 yards en route to their first loss.
The following week, No. 17 Mississippi State returned home to face Johnny Manziel and the Texas A&M Aggies, who were ranked 16th at the time. Manziel had a huge game, with 311 yards passing and 129 yards on the ground, as A&M built a 31-point lead and went on to win 38-13.
The schedule didn’t get any easier for Dan Mullen and his 22nd-ranked Bulldogs the following week, as they visited the No. 9 LSU Tigers in Baton Rouge. Mississippi State actually led this game 7-3 after the first quarter, but LSU outscored MSU 34-10 over the next three quarters, winning 37-17.
On November 17, MSU hosted the Arkansas Razorbacks, and the Bulldogs seemed to get themselves back on the right track in a 45-14 pasting of the Hogs.
However, MSU closed the season with a 41-24 loss to the Ole Miss Rebels in the Egg Bowl, dropping their record to 8-4.
Mississippi State received a bid to the Gator Bowl, where they faced the 21st-ranked Northwestern Wildcats. Northwestern led 13-0 in the second quarter, but MSU cut the lead to 13-10 at the half. However, a big third quarter by Northwestern opened up the game, and the Wildcats won, 34-20.
A season that started with a ton of promise for Mississippi State ended with a thud. After winning seven straight to start the season, the Bulldogs won only one game after October 20.
Now, Mullen and his staff must find a way to shift the momentum heading into the 2013 season. MSU must also find a way to replace some of its stars, including wide receiver Chad Bumphis and defensive back Johnthan Banks.
Mullen has done a solid job in building the MSU program, but he and the players cannot let last season’s flop carry over to this season. The schedule, including the rugged Southeastern Conference Western Division, will be brutal, as usual. The Bulldogs need to forget 2012 and focus on 2013. And that should be Mullen’s primary focus heading into spring practice.