Mississippi State started something in 2012.
The Bulldogs just couldn't finish.
Following a 7-0 opening that led to a rise into the top 15 of the rankings, MSU stumbled down the stretch, losing five of its last six — by a margin of 21.4 points — as the schedule eventually stiffened with the likes of Alabama, Texas A&M, LSU and Ole Miss, then Northwestern in the Gator Bowl.
So where does that leave the Bulldogs for 2013, which begins Saturday in Houston against Oklahoma State?
This appears to be a team in transition, with just 10 seniors on the roster and a total rebuild in place at wide receiver and cornerback, where MSU lost a combined six starters. Still, there are core parts returning, including quarterback Tyler Russell, running back LaDarius Perkins, a veteran offensive line and six regulars on defense.
“We're going to have a young football team,” said Bulldogs coach Dan Mullen. “A lot of opportunities for young guys to step up, not just as playmakers on the field, but young guys need to step into leadership roles for us this year.
“I think that's going to be a real defining factor of our season.”
Definition should gain clarity in the opener, when the Bulldogs could reveal a ground-heavy offensive style of play, while the defense faces the test of OSU's up-tempo, spread attack with two new corners.
Despite Russell's return, there's a sense that Mississippi State will lean on its known strength, which is a running game geared around Perkins and an offensive line led by guard Gabe Jackson, a 6-foot-4, 335-pound mauler. Perkins already ranks sixth all-time in Bulldogs history with 3,463 all-purpose yards and is coming off a 1,000-yard rushing season.