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August 23, 2011Sure, Mississippi State has had their moments. In 1940, the Bulldogs went 10-0-1 and a No. 9 national ranking. In 1974, Rockey Felker led the team to a 9-3 record and a Sun Bowl victory. Then in 1980, John Bond and head coach Emory Bellard went down to Jackson and defeated Bear Bryant and top ranked Alabama 6-3 in quite arguably the biggest upset in MSU history.
Who will forget head coach Jackie Sherrill leading the Dogs into the 1998 SEC Championship game and putting a huge scare into eventual National Champion Tennessee. But one thing is clear, there has never been more excitement heading into a season than the excitement Dan Mullen has generated heading into this upcoming season.
This season will mark the change of some very exciting, as well as some very sad times for MSU football. For the first time in most everyone's lives, the Dawgs will hit the field without quite frankly one of the best play-by-play person in the history of sports Jack Cristil behind the microphone describing to us in such detail every aspect of every play. One can't help but feel sorry for our friend Jim Ellis. Ellis is a class act and a great person, as well as a very good broadcaster. He has the biggest shoes to fill in the history of MSU athletics. But make no mistake about it, Ellis will do a great job and along with our old friend Matt Wyatt we will get every detail of every game in a way that we will all be proud.
On the field there will be some significant changes as well. Gone is a linebacking corps that ranks up there with one of the best units MSU has ever had. Nearly vvery report from every reporter you will find will question what the Bulldogs are going to do at linebacker. And while State will have a young unit, the talent is there. One of the players that plays with the most heart of any player on the team is Cameron Lawrence. He will give everything he has on every play. Brandon Wilson is a blue collar player that just produces. Brandon Maye is here to provide senior leadership and discipline to a young group.
There are also questions at left tackle and center as well. Does that change the excitement in Starkville? Absolutely not.
Every year at this time there are 120 fan bases across the country that are eagerly awaiting the start of the season. After week one, a lot of those fans will declare "This is gonna be a long season". MSU fans, have had that experience all too many times in their history. But likely not this year. So, what changed?
The biggest change that can be attributed to this changed occured on Dec. 10, 2008. On that day, Mullen took over the helm of the Bulldogs. Mullen for sure brings a swagger to the program that it needed. He doesn't seem to care who's skin he gets under or what people think. He leads the Dogs with a determination and a drive that hasn't been seen in Starkville in a long time. He doesn't apologize for being successful and he doesn't let good be good enough. He fires up the fan base with the same excitement he fires up the players. The man is a winner and there really isn't anyone who can question that.
So will the Bulldogs live up to all these expectations? Don't look now but the Bulldogs have won four straight bowl games. The offense is loaded with playmakers and the defense is likely going to be better than advertised. So what changed? Mullen has shown the maroon and white faithful does not have to hope it can win, he has shown them they can expect to win.