The truth is, Mississippi State is more like the SEC’s Iowa State. Tries hard, wins some games, but never really factors into any kind of title contention. Here is a primer on Mississippi State’s football history:
Bowl history: The Bulldogs haven’t played in a major bowl since the 1940 season, when they beat Georgetown 14-7 in the Orange Bowl. Mississippi State also played in the Orange Bowl four years earlier, losing to Duquesne 13-12. Since those trips to Miami, Mississippi State has played in 14 bowl games:
1963 Liberty (beat North Carolina State 16-12)
1974 Sun (beat North Carolina 26-24)
1980 Sun (lost to Nebraska 31-17)
1981 Hall of Fame (beat Kansas 10-0)
1991 Liberty (lost to Air Force 38-15)
1992 (season) Peach (lost to North Carolina 21-17)
1994 Peach (lost to North Carolina State 28-24)
1998 Cotton (lost to Texas 38-11)
1999 Peach (beat Clemson 17-7)
2000 Independence (beat Texas A&M 43-41)
2007 Liberty (beat Central Florida 10-3)
2010 Gator (beat Michigan 52-14)
2011 Music City (beat Wake Forest 23-17)
2012 Gator (lost to Northwestern 34-20).
Championships: Mississippi State won the 1941 SEC title with a 4-0-1 record. The Bulldogs won the SEC West Division in 1998 with a 6-2 record but lost to Tennessee 24-14 in the conference title game.
Coaching icons: Mississippi State’s greatest coach ever was Allyn McKeen, who in nine years (1939-48) went 65-19-3, including seasons of 8-2, 10-0-1, 8-1-1 and 8-2 from 1939-42. If you like your icons to be post-World War II, Mississippi State has had some big names who didn’t necessarily do big things in Starkville. Murray Warmath went 5-4 and 5-2-3 in 1952 and 1953, then left for big things at Minnesota. Darrell Royal made his head coaching debut at Mississippi State, going 6-4 in both 1954 and 1955 before leaving for Washington. Wade Walker, who later became OU’s athletic director, spent six years as the Bulldog coach, 1956-61, going 22-32-2. Emory Bellard, who is credited with inventing the wishbone, took over after getting fired at Texas A&M; Bellard went 37-42 from 1979-85. Jackie Sherrill did the same, jumping from A&M to Mississippi State, and going 74-76-2 from 1991-2003. Sylvester Croom was the first black head coach in SEC history; he went 21-38 from 2004-08.
Series history: Mississippi State is 2-2 vs. OSU. The Bulldogs won 14-13 in 1970 in Jackson, Miss., and 29-11 in 1999 in Starkville. OSU won 26-7 in 1971 in Stillwater and 42-23 in 1998 in Stillwater. Yes, a Cowboy team that went 5-6 in 1998 beat the eventual SEC West champion by 19 points.
Cowbells: No one quite knows for sure what started the Mississippi State tradition of fans ringing cowbells. According to legend, a cow wandered onto the field in an early-era game against Ole Miss. Mississippi State won the game, and someone began bringing that cow to every game. Eventually, they settled on just bringing a cowbell.
Famous alums: Author John Grisham, comedian Jerry Clower.
First-round NFL draft picks: 10.
2012: Fletcher Cox, DT, 12th pick, Eagles
2011: Derek Sherrod, OL, 32nd pick, Packers
1996: Walt Harris, DB, 13th pick, Bears
1996: Eric Moulds, WR, 24th pick, Bills
1983: Michael Haddix, RB, 8th pick, Eagles
1982: Johnie Cooks, LB, 2nd pick, Colts
1982: Glen Collins, DE, 26th pick, Bengals
1975: Jimmy Webb, DT, 10th pick, 49ers
1959: Billy Stacy, DB, 3rd pick, Cardinals
1956: Art Davis, DB, 5th pick, Steelers
Consensus all-Americans: 3. Cooks, 1981; Fred Smoots, DB, 2000; Johnthan Banks, DB, 2012.
Biggest win: In 1980, Mississippi State was 6-2 and hosting defending national champion Alabama, which was riding a 28-game winning streak. The Bulldogs beat Bama 6-3, recovering a last-minute fumble at the Mississippi State 3-yard line. It was MSU’s first win over Alabama since 1957.
Biggest upset: In November 1935, Mississippi State was 5-1 and having a nice year, but Southern football had little reputation and MSU was coming off seven straight losing seasons. But Mississippi State went to West Point and stunned mighty Army 13-7.
Biggest rival: Ole Miss. The Egg Bowl (the schools play for an egg-shaped trophy) has been played every year since 1915, other than 1943, when both schools suspended their program for the war. Ole Miss leads 42-61-6.
Nicknames: Mississippi State was known as the Aggies until 1932, when the school switched from Mississippi A&M to Mississippi State College. In 1961, the name became Mississippi State University, and the school adopted “Bulldogs” as the nickname.
Oddity: Mississippi State has a winning record against only one SEC opponent — Vanderbilt (12-7-2).