The Mississippi State Bulldogs would love for 2013 to be the season that they take the next step in the progression of their program. Head coach Dan Mullen has done a solid job in Starkville, although his program is clearly behind the Alabama Crimson Tide, the LSU Tigers and the Texas A&M Aggies in the Southeastern Conference Western Division pecking order.
What Mullen must guard against, as he continues to try to gain ground on those division leaders, is falling back into the pack. The Ole Miss Rebels made strides last year under new head coach Hugh Freeze. The Arkansas Razorbacks figure to be back on the road to winning, especially considering the success that head coach Bret Bielema had as the top dog for the Wisconsin Badgers. And the Auburn Tigers have a new head coach, Gus Malzahn, who hopes to build that program back into a contending role.
Mullen figures to have a solid group of players this season, including returning quarterback Tyler Russell and returning running back LaDarius Perkins. There is little question that these two players will be key to whatever success MSU has during this season.
Mullen hopes that these talented leaders can vault the Bulldogs into the conversation about who is the best in the west. Just last season, MSU got off to a 7-0 start before a disastrous finish. If Mullen and his squad can get off to a similar start this season, they hope that last year’s experience will help them move ahead rather than fall back as they did in 2012.
If MSU had another season like it did last year, falling back into the pack that includes Arkansas, Auburn and Ole Miss will be the result. But if Mullen can get his team to stride forward, perhaps they can be mentioned with the likes of Alabama, LSU and Texas A&M. This season will send the MSU program in one of those directions. Only time will tell which one.