Countdown to Kickoff: 15 Days

We’re counting down to MSU’s season opener against Oklahoma State on Aug. 31, giving you a significant number to ponder as August trudges on. Today’s number is…

–––––

15.

I wrote yesterday about MSU trying to compete for an SEC Western Division title, and I mentioned that the only time it’s ever won the West came 15 years ago, in 1998. The Bulldogs went on to lose to Tennessee in the SEC championship game, 24-14. Tennessee went on to win the national title in the first year of the BCS era.

MSU hasn’t sniffed a division crown since then. Well, it did go 6-2 in 1999, finishing a game behind Alabama. Two years later, the wheels fell off the program, and MSU hasn’t finished above .500 in SEC play since that ’99 campaign. Fifth-year coach Dan Mullen has stated clearly that the next step for this program is to win the West, and he’s noted that doing so probably means State would be in contention for a national title. After all, the SEC has produced seven consecutive national champions, with five of them hailing from the West.

But let’s go back to 1998 and what happened that year. MSU and Arkansas both finished with 6-2 league marks, but the Bulldogs won the tie-breaker by virtue of their 22-21 win over the Razorbacks in Starkville. Arkansas entered the game ranked ninth in the country, but Jackie Sherrill‘s unranked Bulldogs pulled it out on Brian Hazelwood‘s fifth field goal of the day. Linebacker Edward Smith had a big day with three sacks, including back-to-back sacks late in the fourth quarter to get the ball back for MSU’s winning drive.

The West was a tough place back then, but it’s probably even tougher now. Beating ranked division foes like that ’98 squad did is what it would take to bring another West title to Starkville.

I am the online content coordinator for DJournal.com. Previously at the Journal, I covered Mississippi State athletics (2008-13), high schools (2004-08), and was on the copy desk (2002-04). I'm working on a recipe for bacon-flavored coffee, which would solve all the world's problems.

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