Mississippi’s once promising season is running out

This season in Mississippi was very promising. It still has a third of the way to go, but the ceiling is lower than it used to be.

Bulldogs are 5-3 and 2-3 in the Southeast Conference as they descend from an open date.

The state started the season with more curves with non-conference wins. It started quickly in the opening SEC at LSU and even after a 13-0 lead ended in a 31-16 fiasco, it rebounded against the backlash of Texas A&M and Arkansas conference wins against each other.

Suddenly the Bulldogs were 5-1 and 2-1 and they took 16th place in the country. Coach Mike Leach’s third season was going to be a turning point.

Then everything changed. The season has started to go in the wrong direction.

And while the open dates can sometimes be an opportunity to stop a skid and turn the season around – and the next 3 Bulldogs games are taking place at Davis Wade Stadium – this season looks to be one that will continue in that direction for the next few weeks.

In fact, after losing 27-17 in Kentucky and losing 30-6 at Alabama to the opening date, this season is starting to look a bit like the first 2 seasons with Leach.

Last season, State lost 2 of the last 3 SEC games before being smashed by Texas Tech in the Liberty Bowl.

In their first season, the Leach Bulldogs had an eye-opening victory against the reigning national champion LSU with 7 defeats in a further 8 SEC games before saving their home win over Missouri and a victory against Tulsa in the Armed Forces Bowl.

Both Leach’s first 2 teams – and now his third – were generating optimism early in the season before collapsing.

This team still has options to avoid ending this narrative, but the losses to Kentucky and Alabama – albeit on the road with good teams – put it in question as to whether this group will seize the opportunities.

First visit to Auburn – SEC’s most-won game remained on the schedule and one of the most important games of the Leach era. A win against the weaker Tigers would stop skidding, ensure eligibility for the Bulldogs Cup, and even ensure a conference record.

But losing would create a completely different dynamic and possibly a fragile ego for the team who will be visiting Georgia number 1 a week later.

And now playing with Auburn has become even more important.

The Tigers are reportedly close to hiring State Sports Director John Cohen to head their sports department. Aside from the emotional aspect of meeting the two schools while one trotting the other’s AD, there is a practical element that will hover over the game and the rest of the Bulldogs season.

Cohen hired Leach and Cohen’s successor is likely to view Leach’s unequal 3-year term from a different perspective than Cohen.

This state team – and this coaching term – may not recover from a loss to Auburn.

Even if the Bulldogs beat the Tigers, the match against Georgia will still be problematic.

The expected non-contest victory against East Tennessee State on November 19 would provide a rescue, but like last year’s 55-10 victory in the match, it will be short-lived. Just 5 days later, the Egg Bowl for Thanksgiving takes place in Oxford.

Leach is 0-2 against Ole Miss, and a third consecutive loss would be detrimental – especially when there’s an exclamation point on another late-season slide.

Leach has not had great achievements in competitive games in recent seasons. His Washington state teams have lost the last 7 Apple Cup games to Washington after his first team beat Husky.

The outlook for the remainder of the season does not look very bright.

And a poor finish would significantly affect the harsh evaluation of the program by the new sporting director.


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