Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Rick Cleveland: What happened in two years?

Two years ago, this time of the year, the Mississippi State Bulldogs ranked No. 1 in the nation for five straight weeks of the national college football poll.

For two of those weeks, Ole Miss ranked as highly as No. 3.

There the Mississippi teams were, ranked above Alabama. Above Ohio State. Above Michigan and Florida and LSU and Southern Cal and Texas and Notre Dame and the rest.

Our teams were on the cover of Sports Illustrated, hosting all the national networks and big-city sports writers.

Some of us walked around in a daze, didn't quite know how to act.

Now seems a good time to bring this up.

Two years later, Ole Miss is 3-3, just lost for the third straight time to Arkansas, and has LSU and Auburn coming up next. Mississippi State is 2-4 and still has games to play against undefeated Texas A&M, undefeated Alabama, Arkansas and Ole Miss.

All together: What a difference two years can make...

To which Mississippi State fans might add a chorus: Where have you gone Dak Prescott, Bulldog Nation turns its lonely eyes to you...

For that matter, these aren't the most rosy of times for any Mississippi college football team. Southern Miss, one year removed from playing in the Conference USA championship game, is 4-3 and has lost back-to-back games by a total of 58 points. Jackson State is 2-4. Alcorn State is 3-3. Mississippi Valley State is 0-6. Delta State is 4-3. Mississippi College is 2-5. Belhaven is 1-5. Millsaps is 2-4.

Collectively, our teams are 23-40. That's a a whole lot more losing than winning.

Dare we say: Mississippi, the state, is going through a rebuilding season? Or, worse, our football teams are living down to our economy.

Better to remember that these things run in cycles.

Granted, we are not likely to have two of the top three teams in the nation in mid-to-late October often. But neither are we likely to be a collective 23-40 headed into late October often, either. Our feeder programs, Mississippi high school and junior college football, are too good for that.

Two years ago, Mississippi State had knocked off LSU, Texas A & M and Auburn, all Top 10 teams, in succession to reach No. 1. The matchup with Auburn was No. 1 vs. No. 2. State won big.

What has happened in 24 months?

Turn on the Dallas Cowboys on any given Sunday and you will see. Those 2014 Bulldogs were led by a remarkably special player, Dak Prescott, who not only played the sport's most important position at a high level but made those around him play at a much higher level as well. Blockers didn't have to hold their blocks as long with Dak back there. Running backs had more running room because defenses worried so about Dak keeping the ball himself. Receivers often caught the ball in stride because of Dak's passing. The State defense wasn't on the field nearly as long because Dak kept the offense on the field longer. His teammates rallied around him, much like soldiers around a great general. He gave them hope and confidence.

There are other less significant differences, but Dak's the main one. Clearly, players and leaders such as Dak Prescott do not come around often.

Ole Miss?

It says here there is not that much difference between the Rebels of 2014 and these Rebels. (KF note: Um, isn't there a big difference between the two teams in running games and defense?)  The 2016 schedule, which already has included Florida State, Alabama and Arkansas on the road is significantly harder.

The Rebels led FSU by 22, lost to No. 1 ranked Alabama by five, could just as easily won at Fayetteville.

In football, the line between winning and losing is often razor thin. In 2016, against a brutal schedule Ole Miss has been on the wrong side of that line.

Best to remember, there's still plenty of football to play, both in this season and beyond.


Rick Cleveland is a Jackson-based syndicated columnist. His email address is rcleveland@mississippitoday.org.

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

State's No. 1 ranking was a fluke as none of those top ten teams that they beat ended up being real top ten teams. And, Mississippi was living on luck that year as evidenced by the Peach Bowl result.

Anonymous said...

old mis, the king of the shoulda,woulda,coulda.....

Anonymous said...

Luck? Cash, loaner cars, free lodging, and keeping mommas lights burning brought them
to number 3. Better enjoy that plateau now,before long that claim
will be easily contested.

Anonymous said...

Poe's law at 4:59.

Anonymous said...

You're a topwater, 3:59, and here's what you don't understand. When a ranked team gets beat once, twice or three times, their ranking drops dramatically. No team that starts the season ranked and gets beat a couple of times maintains that ranking. Do you really expect that the number 3, 5 and 6th ranked teams losing during the early part of the season will result in them retaining their ranking?

This is probably too complicated for you so I'll leave you to your folly.

Anonymous said...

7;10 thank you for making my point better than I. MSU was a fluke because those teams were not very good. But, go ahead and keep celebrating a ranking that was meaningless because at the end of the season you could not even sniff No. 1. and the end of the season is the only thing that counts at the end of the day.

Anonymous said...

They are coming...

Anonymous said...

All that was gained will be lost, they are coming.........

Anonymous said...

Don't know what all the hubbub is about. Dak Prescott made dan Mullen just like Brett favre made curly hallman. Curley got exposed, and now Mullen is too. Just like curly, Mullen is an average coach that ran into a one of kind of qb...twice(tebow/Prescott)

Anonymous said...

4:59 True maroon at it's finest. What's happened to The Moo in this two-year span? Reality, of course.

Schutate's and Ole Miss's success will always be cyclical; neither school can really sustain that kind of success over an extended period of time.

For The Guy Who Punted His Head.. said...

9:10...You still don't understand rankings, do you? No team in the history of ranking who is ranked in the top five at the beginning of the year, that later loses three games to ranked opponents, has ended the year anywhere near the top ten. And you sit there and claim that it was a fluke because teams ranked highly at the beginning were ranked lower at the end. What a revelation! Go take a whiz and hang in the kitchen with the women-folk. You don't belong in the den watching the game with the guys.

Anonymous said...

@1:17, they sure as hell can't when they're on probation which is where ole miserable is headed.

Anonymous said...

Look what MSU did while on probation! It came and went without a hiccup and it didn't take the league four years to make a decision to implement the penalty on MSU.

Anonymous said...

I love college football. I get highs when we win and lows when we lose. But I don't let what happens on Sat control my life. Most of the "idiot" fans I know never put on a jock strap.

Anonymous said...

1009, what you fail to realize, or accept, is that Mullen helped make Prescott, and Tebow for that matter. Both had plenty of talent, but it takes some good training to turn raw talent into the exceptional qbs that these turned into being.

State's ranking in 2014 wasn't a fluke - but their not maintaining it to the end of the year wasn't either. MSU, nor UM, don't have the ability to be a really good team year in and year out - like an Alabama or Ohio. Comes with the territory. But both seem to have really good coaches at the time (can do without HF's saving grace approach, but other than that..) and will have another 9 win season within the next two years - that is if UM can survive the coming sanctions.

Ball Buster... said...

10:48; While you're busy sniffing them, I did indeed wear a jock strap. As I recall, for about seven years.

Anonymous said...

5:36
I doubt that you are one of the "idiot" fans I was speaking of. Those that at the beginning of the season proclaim that their team will certainly be in the playoffs. After every loss heap nasty criticism on the coach, players, AD and the winning team.

Anonymous said...

They are coming ...

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In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.


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If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

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