Robinson may have ran himself into the Heisman race.

Mississippi State is the first No.1 team in the inaugural College Football Playoff Committee poll. It may be improbable but it makes perfect sense if you understand the storm that brought the team together.

As Christian Holmes darted down the field, returning a Kentucky onside kick, I came to a realization: He’s not supposed to be on the field, nevertheless clinching the game with a sensational run.

Another thing I realized: There are several Christian Holmes’ on Mississippi State’s roster and coaching staff–players and coaches who aren’t supposed to be in Starkville contributing to a national contender.

Three elements have made up a perfect storm for the Bulldogs: the shouldn’t have been here, the overlooked and the should have been somewhere else.

The Shouldn’t Have Been Here

Christian Holmes: Holmes, if the off-season rumors had come true, was expected to move on after graduating college. Even if he returned, he was expected to be third-string behind Dezmond Harris, who had an impressive spring. He did come back, though. He beat out Harris and has become a major contributor–ranking third on the team in tackles (34).

Will Redmond: If things had shaken out the wrong way, Redmond wouldn’t have been eligible. But he was cleared, albeit with the cost of a year and a half of eligibility. He’s now emerged as the Bulldogs top one-on-one cornerback.

Nick James: James had one foot out the door after a true freshmen season which saw him struggle with conditioning issues and in the classroom. He had to shape up or ship out. Well, he shaped up literally and figuratively. He lost weight and bought into the team concept. After splitting time early in the season with Curtis Virges, James has solidified himself as the one-technique, defensive tackle on the 1B defense.

Taveze Calhoun: Calhoun might not have even got recruited if Quay Evans wasn’t his teammate. Harsh but real truth. He was viewed as package-deal player–helping to secure Evans commitment. Evans is off the roster and Calhoun has become one of the best cornerbacks in the SEC.

De’Runnya Wilson: Wilson would be playing for Alabama if they offered. He grew up an Alabama fan. The only reason he’s at MSU is because he couldn’t wear the Auburn colors due to allegiance to Alabama.

The Overlooked

Dak Prescott: Prescott was initially overlooked by LSU–as they only recruited him as an athlete. LSU did eventually recruit him as a quarterback but only after Dan Mullen had secured his commitment. The rest as they say is history.

Josh Robinson: LSU wanted Terrance McGee, Robinson’s high school teammate, but not him. Robinson grew up wanting to wear the purple and gold. He settled for torching them for 197 yards on 16 carries. Les Miles has been blessed with some talented running backs, but I think he’ll forever regret not recruiting Robinson.

Jameon Lewis: Although Lewis was a stud high school quarterback/athlete, he was only recruited locally. He had to bide his time behind Chad Bumphis. But he finally got his shot last season and shined. Once he is full strength, the electric slot receiver will bolster an already deep receiving core.

Blaine Clausell: Clausell was overlooked by his home-state schools–Auburn and Alabama. Those schools lost out on a talented linemen and Mississippi State gained a three-year starter.

Malcolm Johnson: Johnson is the classic tweener prospect that Alabama and Auburn didn’t give a second look. Coach Mullen recruited him and converted him from a big receiver into a hybrid tight end and key cog in their offensive machine.

The Should Have Been Somewhere Else

Billy Gonzales: Truth be told, Gonzales should be at a more elite program with his resume. Mississippi State,in a literal sense, is a step down from Florida. He should be somewhere else. But he’s at Mississippi State. The work he’s done with the Bulldog receiving core is top notch–especially with De’Runnya Wilson, who’s developed into one of the better receivers in the SEC.

Geoff Collins: Collins is an up-and-comer who could have jumped at a mid-Major coaching job this past off-season or taken an offer from a bigger school. He decided to stay after his salary was raised and has spearheaded “Psycho Defense.”

Dan Mullen: Mullen could have left and maybe should have been fired at different points. He’s stuck around and was able to see his plan through. He’s set up for long-term success and a huge raise. It remains to be seen if he’ll get that raise from Mississippi State or someone else. Bulldog fans should just enjoy this season and see how the ball bounces.

The Bulldogs are a hungry team that’s resilient and built for adversity. No one should be surprised that their having success. When a team is filled with overlooked players and ambitious coaches, the end result is a perfect storm.

J.Short’s Hot Takes

  • Dak is rising up the draft boards. But at this stage of his development, he would benefit greatly from another year in college. His long ball accuracy still needs work—as he throws the ball too far or too short most of the time. Also, the red zone play where he locked onto De’Runnya Wilson, instead of throwing to an open Robert Johnson is another area of improvement that needs to be made.
Could he win the Heisman? Yes

Is he ready for the NFL? Not in my opinion.

  • Fred Brown and Fred Ross deserve some praise for consistently performing in a reserve role. Brown has 210 yards on the season and Ross 158. Combined they have 368 with three touchdowns, which would be best on the team if they were one player. You can’t ask for more from reserves. I see ya young bucks. Keep grindin.
  • Chris Jones hasn’t answered my challenge. He’s been ineffective the past two games. He was moved outside against Kentucky and didn’t record a tackle. Inexcusable.
  • Salute to Kaleb Eulls. He got named defensive linemen of the week after a five tackle, two sack performance. It looks as though he’s finally living up to that four-star rating.
  • The Mississippi State pass defense continues to disappoint. But I do believe the real problem is at the safety position. The Bulldog cornerbacks are making plays. The safeties aren’t, though. Kivon Coman’s four combined four pass break ups and deflections lead the group, which is a testament to how few plays on the ball they are making. At this point, the coaching staff needs to focus on the players who make the most plays in the passing game and sit the rest. It’s a tough decision that has to be made.
  • MSU’s pass defense may be pourous. Their pass rush is not. The Bulldogs are tied for sixth in the nation with 28 sacks on the season. They’re doing their job. The back end just needs to do theirs.
  • I normally salute MSU’s players. But I have to salute Kentucky for a great effort. In particular, I want to salute Patrick Towles, who had 466 total yards with four combined touchdowns.
J.Short’s Final Take

Dak Prescott is getting pushed as the Heisman contender for Mississippi State. But I think another Bulldog deserves consideration: Josh Robinson.

Look at the numbers: 887 yards and ten touchdowns on the season.

Also, when the Bulldogs have needed him to impose his will on the opposing team, he’s done so in impressive fashion. He even has the Heisman moments. The two great runs he had against Kentucky will go down as two of the greatest runs in Mississippi State history.

J.Rob for Heisman!!!

Jeremiah Short, Peach State College Sports Contributor

Catch me on the “SportsKrib” on Wednesday’s 8-9 Central and Thursday’s 8-10 Central. Follow me on social media @DaRealJShort or check out my facebook page JShortJournalist or my Google Plus page J.Short- Journalist.

Will Redmond defending a pass. The Bulldogs will need more plays like these to remain on top.

It’s easy to be the hunter, but it’s a lot harder being the prey. Mississippi State is about to find that out the hard way.

Mississippi State’s fans, players and coaches are in an unfamiliar position. The team that was once seeking legitimacy and relevance with every game is now the team up-and-coming programs will try to beat to gain legitimacy and relevance.

It’s an interesting role reversal. But it’s a well-earned one. The Bulldogs defeated three straight top-10 opponents in a row (First team since the 1983 Auburn Tigers to do so.). They were rewarded for withstanding the brutal SEC gauntlet–going from unranked to number one in the span of five weeks, which was unprecedented but warranted.

The Bulldogs have received all the acclaim and accolades that come along with a top ranking: the Sports Illustrated covers, the Heisman hype for their quarterback and, most importantly, the RESPECT.

If the casual fan didn’t know the difference between Ole Miss and Mississippi State, they darn sure know now.

How do they keep their status? Beware of complacency.

6-0 is a great record and start to any season. But that just means there are nine games left to play: six regular season, one SEC Championship and two College Football Playoff.

The next game is truly the most important one when you have a target on your back.

“Playing in the SEC gives you a bigger game every week. This is the biggest game we have played of the season. I said the Auburn game was the biggest game ever played in the state of Mississippi. This game is bigger now. Now we are a team that has a target on our back. We have to go on the road in a hostile environment and play one of the hottest and most improved teams in college football. Our guys better learn how to handle that and realize how big of a game this really is,” Mississippi State Head Coach Dan Mullen on remaining focused.

While the recent three-game stretch proved that the Bulldogs have arrived as an elite program, the next three games against Kentucky, Arkansas and Tennessee-Martin will show if they’re still hungry.

All three games present their own challenges. Kentucky is a burgeoning program looking for that first “Statement” game to make the nation take notice. Arkansas is in year two of Brett Beliema’s regime, but they have some momentum and are powered by dominant run offense. Tennessee-Martin is a mid-Major but the matchup has “Trap Game” written all over it–as the Bulldogs might be looking ahead to a potential showdown with Alabama.

If the Bulldogs lose one of the next three games, they’re not out of the race. But they do lose a little bit of that “aura” of dominance. All it takes is a little chink in the armor for a team uncomfortable with the spotlight to go into a tailspin and believe what their critics are saying about them.

Oh, LSU wasn’t really that good and didn’t take Mississippi State serious.

Texas A&M wasn’t really that good and was dropping the ball all game.

Auburn’s a nice win but they shot themselves in the foot.

Critics do what critics do…Criticize. But critics aren’t always wrong.

In the Bulldogs key victories, they did catch a few breaks.

LSU didn’t respect the Bulldogs. Take the initial goaline stand from the Bulldog defense as an example. Instead of mixing it up and trying to run around the Bulldog front seven, LSU’s Head Coach Les Miles decided to run right at them. It’s was like he saying: We’re LSU and you’re MSU…stop us. LSU was stopped and embarrassed. But it still doesn’t stop the fact that Miles didn’t respect what the Bulldogs brought to the table.

Texas A&M, a team which built around an up-tempo offense predicated on rhythm, struggled to put together consistent drives because of constant drops and inaccurate passes from Kenny Hill. Could the Bulldogs have won the game without those miscues? Yes. But we’ll never know.

Auburn and Mississippi State turned the ball over in their matchup. But the Bulldogs did a better job of capitalizing on the Tigers mistakes.

Mississippi State has beaten teams who brought their B, C and D games. What happens when a team with the talent brings their “A” game?

Will the “Dawgs” make the necessary plays or will they buckle under the pressure?

That’s the question yet to be answered. But it’s going to be answered at some point. If the Bulldogs do make it past the next three games unscathed, they do have Alabama, the current preeminent SEC program that won’t relinquish its title without a fight.

And then if they beat Alabama, they have their annual showdown with Ole Miss in the “Egg Bowl,” which has weighted importance–as the Rebels will be playing spoilers or for their right to represent the SEC West in Atlanta.

Mississippi State is the top “Dawg” in college football. Keeping the hunter’s mentality is the only way they remain there.

J.Short’s Hot Takes

  • I understand Mullen deciding to roll with J.Rob against Auburn. But Brandon Holloway has earned the right to be on the field every week. He’s too much of an asset to be on the sidelines in an important game.
  • Salute to Malcolm Johnson for showing up against Auburn. He hasn’t been incorporated the way he should be throughout most of the season. But when his bell was called, he produced.
  • Shout out to Ben Beckwith. He’s making a lot of talent evaluators look bad. He’s gone from walk-on to a potential NFL Draft pick.
  • Shout out to Ryan Brown for a huge game against Auburn. His numbers were a little deceiving–as he only had two tackles and one for a loss. But he locked down the edge and had three quarterback hurries.
  • Matt Wells isn’t getting the pub that fellow Bulldog starting linebackers Benardrick McKinney and Beniquez Brown are getting, but it doesn’t mean what he’s doing isn’t equally as important. He only has 22 tackles on the season. But he has ten pass break ups and deflections on the year. He’s been the ultimate hybrid linebacker–sealing the edge and shutting down the flats. I see ya young buck. Keep grindin and flexing on them.
  • Quadry Antoine’s career hasn’t went the way he, or the coaches, would have liked it to have gone. But when he got his shot, he came up with a big play–causing a critical fumble that turned the momentum back in the Bulldogs favor. His time will come to make a few more of those plays…watch.
  • I’ve never been the president of the Will Redmond fan club. But he showed up against Auburn. He was superb in man-to-man coverage and he could be the lockdown corner Mississippi State has been searching for all season.
  • Justin Cox has been hobbled for most of the season, but he made the game-clinching interception against Auburn. The Bulldogs need him to make more of those plays if they hope to make it to the College Football Playoff.
J.Short’s Final Take

As I’ve perused the web, story after story has focused on the Bulldogs talent or lack thereof. While the Bulldogs aren’t filled with four and five stars, it doesn’t mean their players can’t play. “Mississippi Boys” can play. The stats support it. Per capita, Mississippi ranks fourth in putting talent in the NFL( One per 87,243 citizens). A couple of NFL greats hail from Mississippi. Brett Favre. Steve McNair. Walter Payton. Jerry Rice.

It hasn’t translated on the field because one: The State of Mississippi has two major football programs.

And two: No coach has every truly focused on development the way Dan Mullen has at Mississippi State. It’s been commented that Mullen has turned two and three stars into five stars. I disagree. He’s got five stars to play like five stars. Those Benardrick McKinney’s and Johnthan Banks were that good the whole time. Recruiting analysts were and are just too lazy to go into those rural Mississippi schools and scout them. I use to work for a scouting service. I know for a fact that they overlook small schools. Most of the players don’t get ranked until they commit to an SEC program in some cases.

Look at Mississippi State’s roster. Six of their key contributors: Jameon Lewis, Gabe Myles, Zach Jackson, Benardrick McKinney, Will Redmond and Justin Cox are former high school quarterbacks who were converted to different positions. Only one of those players (Redmond) was rated above three stars and he’s from Memphis, Tennessee.

So, I think Dan Mullen and his staff need to be commended for actually evaluating talent, instead of paying attention to what ESPN, Rivals, 247 and Scout have to say about them.

Jeremiah Short, Peach State College Sports Contributor

Catch me on the “SportsKrib” on Wednesday’s 8-9 Central and Thursday’s 8-10 Central. Follow me on social media @DaRealJShort or check out my facebook page JShortJournalist or my Google Plus page J.Short- Journalist.

Google Images/ Brandon Holloway Mississippi State very well could be the best team in the country.

Mississippi State is the 3rd-best college football team in the country. Let me repeat, the Mississippi State Bulldogs are the third-ranked program in the country and the center of the college football universe.

I’ll be honest in saying: I never thought I’d see the day.

To put that statement into context, I have to take the writer hat off for a minute and talk about my time as a fan of Mississippi State or “State” to those from Mississippi.

I wasn’t always a Mississippi State fan. I knew nothing of them until my brother walked into the house boasting that he got J.J. Johnson’s autograph. I vividly remember thinking, who is J.J. Johnson? Not in the good way, either.

Eventually, I started to follow Mississippi State when my older sister began to attend Mississippi State. I found out who J.J. Johnson was…possibly the best running back that had to come through Mississippi State(May still be). And so I became a Bulldog.

I was blessed early on as a fan. I got to see the Bulldogs go on an improbable 8-0 run in 1999, which saw the “Dawgs” win several games in spectacular fashion (Thanks Matt Wyatt). They finished 10-2 with a Peach Bowl win.

The Bulldogs went bowling again in 2000. And then began my most excruciating time as a fan of the team hailing from Starkville. Over the next six years, the Bulldogs didn’t have one winning season and compiled a putrid 17-52 record. One of those losses included an embarrassing loss to FBS opponent: Maine. Freaking Maine. The program I loved had become a joke. It didn’t help that I was a student at Mississippi State, either.

Fast forward to 2007, the Sylvester Croom-led Bulldogs put together a winning season, which was capped with a Liberty Bowl victory over Central Florida. A game I attended with my Aunt Florence, a fellow Mississippi State alum and fan. (It’s a memory I will always cherish–as that Aunt recently passed away.)

I thought we were about to turn the corner. I was wrong. One off-season shooting incident stripped the Dawgs of four top performers. It’s a loss that couldn’t be absorbed. The next season the Bulldogs won only four games. Croom, the first black coach in SEC history, was fired.

In came Dan Mullen, the offensive “guru” who was supposed to turn the Bulldogs into a national contender or at least Mississippi State fans pretended we thought he could get the program to that level.

The “Yankee” from New Hampshire got off to a solid start. He achieved a 5-7 record in his first season–defeating Ole Miss in the “Egg Bowl” and excited the crowd by saying that “Mississippi State was the program on the rise” in the State of Mississippi. It’s became the battle cry for Bulldog fans. We were on the rise to the top and Dan Mullen would lead us there.

While Mullen led the Bulldogs to four-straight bowl games, it seemed he would never deliver on his promise. It’s something that wasn’t lost on me. I went so far as to write a column stating that “Mullen Must Change His Ways” if he is to turn the Bulldogs into a contender.

The 2014 season was a true “Now or Never” year for Mullen. He had his guys and had to deliver. Finally, after years of disappointments, the Dawgs got over the hump. They didn’t just beat national powerhouse LSU but destroyed them. They didn’t stop there.They easily disposed of Texas A&M, another top-10 opponent.

Bulldog fans who dealt with years of anguish had something not just be excited about but boast about. It still feels surreal. The Bulldogs have the Heisman front-runner (Dak Prescott), are a favorite in the new college football playoff and share the Sports Illustrated cover with Ole Miss. It feels like something that would only happen on the now debunk NCAA Football video game. But it’s actually happening.

As much as I’d love to get excited, Tweet and “Flex for the Gram”(And I have) over MSU’s early-season run, I have to put the writer hat back on and assess the Bulldogs’ realistic chances of winning the National title.

Realistically, The Bulldogs have a real shot at winning the first college football playoff. They have all the ingredients: great quarterback play, a balanced offense, good depth and a stout defense.

The one Achilles heel that could come back to haunt the Bulldogs is the fact that they are susceptible to the big play through the air. They’re giving up 328.2 passing yards per game. That’s not going to get it.

Luckily, the Bulldogs don’t face a dominant passing team until they face off against Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl, which very well decide the SEC West and SEC for that matter. Talk about something I never thought I’d see.

I don’t think anyone thought this day would come. But it’s here now. Moments like these don’t come around often.

Soak it in, embrace it and enjoy the ride.

J.Short’s Hot Takes

  • Brandon Holloway’s emergence Saturday gives Mississippi State something it sorely needed: a game breaker. The Bulldogs haven’t had a game one in the Mullen Era. He makes an explosive offense…even more explosive. The Dawgs finally have a guy that can get the corner and break the long run with a small crease.
  • Joe Morrow, I wrote you off but you’ve made some plays this season. I see ya young buck. Keep shining.
  • Salute to Ben Beckwith for stepping up in Dillon Day’s stead on Saturday.
  • I’ve really been hard on Kaleb Eulls throughout his career. But he’s sold out as the one-technique defensive tackle this season. I see ya.
  • I challenged Benardrick McKinney after the first game–asking him to play like an All-American. And he has the last four games. Now I want to challenge Chris Jones, who was a preseason All-American, to step his game up. 12 tackles and two sacks isn’t going to get it. I need to see more.
  • I’ll put it simply: Mississippi State defensive backs, man up. The way you’ve played this season is an absolute disgrace. You’re too talented as a unit to get gashed the way you have every week.
 J.Short’s Final Take

I had to take a moment to say how proud I am to be from the State of Mississippi right now. Two Mississippi teams are on the cover of Sports Illustrated…SPORTS ILLUSTRATED. It became too real when a co-worker, who supports Ole Miss, came to my classroom and just asked: “Have you seen the Sports Illustrated cover?” I just smiled and opined: Yes, I had. That’s how awesome it is that the State of Mississippi dominates the headlines in college football.

*This column was dedicated to my Aunt Florence McGowan. She recently passed away–succumbing to Breast Cancer on September 8th, 2014. R.I.P. Aunt Flo

Support Breast Cancer Awareness. It might save a life.

Jeremiah Short, Peach State College Sports Contributor

Catch me on the “SportsKrib” on Wednesday’s 8-9 Central. Follow me on social media @DaRealJShort or check out my facebook page JShortJournalist or my Google Plus page J.Short- Journalist

Posted by: jeremiah short // October 8, 2014