Lakshman: Mississippi State’s rise embodies what’s great about college football

Oct. 15, 2014, 9:57 p.m.

If college football started its own version of “Occupy Wall Street,” Mississippi State would almost certainly sit squarely in the 99 percent.

Sure, the Bulldogs play in the SEC and make up one half of one of the marquee rivalries across the nation in the Egg Bowl, but no one would call Mississippi State football royalty in the same vein as Alabama, USC, Michigan or Notre Dame.

Sure, the program has had long stretches of tough times, including NCAA sanctions and the role of perennial SEC doormat. To date, the Bulldogs own a winning record over one other SEC school: Vanderbilt because, well, Vanderbilt.

That’s why we should be celebrating State’s rise to the top of the AP poll for the first time in school history. To continue the horrible “Occupy Wall Street” analogy, there is upward mobility in college football.

How else can we explain how a team that wasn’t even ranked until week five found its way to the top spot just three weeks later? The Bulldogs undoubtedly did their part by blowing the then-No. 8, No. 6, and No. 2-ranked teams in the country out of the water in consecutive weeks. Alabama, Oregon and Oklahoma also obliged with timely losses, but I think for a team like Mississippi State to rise as fast as they did speaks to a growing collective consciousness in college football.

For a sport often criticized for its unabashed homerism and regional biases, college football threw itself behind a preseason afterthought in Starkville, the other “Bulldog” in its own conference. By unseating media darlings Jameis Winston and Florida State, we learned that there is a place at the top for the oft marginalized.

It may not be the same as a team like Boise State rising to No. 1, but we still shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that a program that without any major trophies to show off managed to climb from the depths of the unranked to the top of the college football universe in a rise of meteoric proportions.

With the Kansas City Royals tearing it up in the postseason as the Yankees and Red Sox watch from home, with the Oklahoma City Thunder making regular postseason runs as the Lakers and the Celtics toil in mediocrity, we’ve learned that there is a place in sports for once-struggling teams to embrace the process of growth and rebuilding and ultimately overthrow the establishment.

Now, we live in a world in which Michigan is a laughingstock and USC doesn’t strike fear in opponents as it once did. And, on the flipside, we see teams like Mississippi State in position to compete for a national title. If there is any team that has seen the benefits of patient growth, it has to be the Bulldogs.

Before coming to Stanford, the only college football game that I had seen in person was a matchup between Florida and Mississippi State down at The Swamp. To describe that game as ugly wouldn’t quite do it justice — it was a contest that makes one question one’s love for the sport. As the Bulldogs escaped with a 10-7 victory behind a whopping 33 passing yards from Chris Relf, the only major takeaway for me at the time was almost catching Florida’s missed field goal at the end of the game and making it into the frame of the SportsCenter highlight.

As eye-gougingly bad as that game was, you could see the competitive fire that second-year head coach Dan Mullen was breeding in his program; they went into Gainesville and stared Florida down for 60 minutes as Mullen picked up a victory over his former employer, Urban Meyer.

After engineering Florida’s unstoppable offense during its national championship run, Mullen had finally found his Tebow doppelgänger in Dak Prescott. Prescott may claim to hail from Louisiana, but I wouldn’t be surprised at all if he was synthesized in a Mullen-funded research lab to create the next Tebow.

With an offense playing as well as anyone in the country and an aggressive defense that slowed down both Texas A&M and Auburn, I think it’s time to believe in Mississippi State. The schedule is still brutal with the Crimson Tide lurking and an Egg Bowl showdown with a currently undefeated Ole Miss — a battle that is sure to put the Magnolia State at the center of the cosmos.

Until then, we can still appreciate the rise of Mississippi State to the top of the college football world. Before the season, who would have predicted that the road to the College Football Playoff would go through Starkville? As the cowbells continue to ring, we should celebrate the Bulldogs. Their rise represents a lot of what’s great about college football. Hell, what’s great about America.

Vihan Lakshman is just a little bitter that he’s writing this column about the wrong Bulldogs out of the SEC in his mind. Tell Vihan that if that’s the case, maybe he should have reconsidered giving money to Todd Gurley at vihan ‘at’

Vihan Lakshman's journey at The Stanford Daily came full-circle as he began his career as a football beat writer and now closes his time on The Farm in the same role. In between, he has served as an Opinions columnist and desk editor, a beat writer for Stanford baseball, and as a member of The Daily's Editorial Board. Vihan completed his undergraduate degree in Mathematical and Computational Science in 2016, and is currently pursuing a master's in Computational Mathematics. He also worked as a color commentator on KZSU football broadcasts during the 2015 season. To contact him, please send an email to vihan 'at'

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