SEC Football Head Coach Evaluation: Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen

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Nov 15, 2014; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Mississippi State Bulldogs head coach Dan Mullen reacts during a press conference following their 25-20 loss to the Alabama Crimson Tide at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

After placing himself in the company of only the school’s coaching legends, why might Mississippi State fans think they would be better off with a different coach?

It is tough to imagine this offseason, but it looked like Mullen was going to be out of a job in November 2013.  Mississippi State sat at 4-6 with games against Arkansas and Ole Miss remaining.  While leading his team to two overtime victories in those games has become a part of the Mullen legend, many fans were ready to oust Mullen that season.  Most of their SEC losses had not been close and they were barely able to beat Kentucky.

The Bulldogs did win those final two, as well as their bowl game, and the 2014 season rewarded long-suffering State fans.  Aside from that close call, though, there are some valid complaints against Mullen.

Even though State went 6-2 in conference in 2014, Mullen still has a losing (22-26) record in the SEC.  Mississippi State also has the advantage of having drawn Kentucky as it’s annual SEC East opponent, which does not help in defending Mullen’s losing record.

Mississippi State has also avoided playing Power 5 or other major teams under Mullen.  Outside of playing Georgia Tech in his first year (which he had no control over), State’s only major nonconference game was against Oklahoma State in 2013.   You can decide if Athletic Director Scott Stricklin was apologizing or not after the Bulldogs fell 21-3.

Deep into his 5th year at the school, Mullen also had yet to beat a Top 25 opponent.  Mississippi State’s strategy under Mullen has been a simple, yet effective one:  beat 4 nonconference chumps + Kentucky and you have 5 wins.  Find at least one more in the remaining 7 games and you’ll go bowling every year.  While that strategy is brilliant to some, weak to others, it has enabled Dan Mullen to become the third-winningest coach in Mississippi State history.

So the verdict here should not be in doubt.

Next: The Verdict