Underdogs Again

SEC Media days for the 2015 football season are now over. At the conclusion of the annual event, the SEC media offered their feelings on how each team in the conference would likely finish. Auburn was tabbed as the favorite to win the league, despite being projected to finish behind Alabama in the SEC West. While the absurdity of that sinks in, remember Mississippi State was picked 7th.

While the Bulldogs return the league's top quarterback, Dak Prescott, the rest of the squad appears to be unimpressive in the eyes of the media who attended the four day media event in Hoover, Alabama.

Mississippi State, a team who won ten games a season ago, was tabbed dead last in the West. Prescott, who is the consensus pre-season All-Conference selection at signal caller, appeared less than amused with his team's projected finish taking to social media to air his displeasure.

Fans of Mississippi State were quick to pan the news, but to say that this is a total surprise would be a little half handed. Mississippi State was picked to finish 5th by the media in 2014, but wound up finishing second after a season that saw the Bulldogs ranked #1 nationally for five straight weeks.

Despite those lofty heights during the 2014 season, those who over SEC football professionally are a little skeptical about the Bulldogs chances of sustaining the success the program experienced a season ago.

Media folks appear to be big fans of Dak Prescott, but unconvinced in the early going that the 2015 Mississippi State Bulldogs will have much bite.

"I think Dak has proven that he is the best quarterback in this league," Tony Barnhart of the Atlanta-Journal Constitution said. "I have been to Starkville three times over the last nine months and you can see how the players gravitate to him. You can tell that they don't want to let him down. He elevates the play of everyone on the field.

"I think the challenge for them this year is that there is no question that a lot of seniors walked out of the door. There was a lot of experienced guys who walked out of the door.

"The guys who were number twos last year are ready to be number ones this year. The question is are the guys who were number threes last year ready to be number twos. I think that's really where we see the difference."

The theme about the players the Bulldogs have to replace was echoed by Andy Staples of Sports Illustrated, who played his college football in the SEC at the University of Florida.

"Mississippi State lost a lot of good players, they lost a lot of good offensive linemen," Staples said. "It's not easy to duplicate what (Dak Prescott) did last year, but he can certainly build on it.

"(Dak) can provide some stability now, because if you think about it there aren't many established quarterbacks coming back. Dak is THE guy. He is the best returning quarterback."

Every team in the SEC's Western Division received votes as a potential conference champion. The league is filled with parity this year and the pre-season pecking order is by and large a crap shoot.

"It is going to be a tough year in the West," Staples said. "Whoever guts it out is going to be the team that wins it. I don't think there is a big difference between #1 and #7 in the West this year."

Mississippi State senior corner Taveze Calhoun believes that his team has the ability to exceed expectations this fall.

"We don't pay attention to rankings," Calhoun said. "I think every year I have been here, we have been picked last or next to last. We're just trying to keep doing the things we've been doing, which is working out and trying to be the best football players we can be. We are just trying to win games as a team and that's the only thing that really matters to us."

Last fall for the first time ever, every SEC Western Division team earned bowl eligibility. Arkansas finished last in the division a season ago and then knocked off Texas 31-7 to finish the slate at 7-6.

The Razorbacks who lost in Starkville last fall are picked ahead of Mississippi State this year. The fact that the Bulldogs are projected as a last place team this year despite having a Heisman candidate behind center does not appear to have fazed Bulldog boss, Dan Mullen.

"This is my seventh year coming here, and I think every year they've picked us to finish last," Mullen said. "It's kind of like a tradition. "What I love is that maybe people look past us and say we don't have much of a chance this year. We kind of like that and can go out there with a bit of a chip on our shoulder and prove everybody wrong."

Mullen is right not to get too worked up over any pre-season media prognostications. The SEC media has only correctly picked the conference champion correctly five times in twenty-three tries.

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