I know I've been critical in this space of the 2005 incarnation of the UCLA Bruins, going so far as to call them the worst 10-win team of all-time. Well, I may have been a little hasty in giving them that distinction. Here's a quick rundown of the 1999 Mississippi State Bulldogs. By 1999, Jackie Sherrill had revived the football program in Starkville, Mississippi. Heading into his ninth season at the school, the Bulldogs had participated in 4 bowl games and had 5 winning seasons. Prior to his arrival, they had not played in a bowl game since 1981. Mississippi State began the 1999 season 8-0 and rose to #10 in the BCS rankings. They would finish the season with a final record of 10-2, concluding with a victory over Clemson in the Peach Bowl. Here in no particular order are the reasosn why the team was not that strong.
1. They played 4 road games. Mississippi State's four road games were against Vanderbilt (5-6), Auburn (5-6), Alabama (10-3), and Arkansas (8-4). They lost to 'Bama and Arkansas and defeated Auburn by two points.
2. They performed very well in close games. The Bulldogs were 5-1 in games decided by 7 points or less. This includes a remarkable three-game streak where they defeated Auburn by 2, Louisiana State by 1, and Kentucky by 1 point.
3. Their point differential is very small. They outscored their opponents by 99 points on the year (255-156). This gives them only 9.14 expected wins instead of the 10 they had. If we include only conference games, they outscored their opponents by only 35 points (156-121). They went 6-2 in conference play but had only 5.17 expected wins.
4. Their schedule sucked. They played 3 teams with winning records. The aforementioned losses to Alabama and Arkansas along with a 3 point win over rival Ole Miss. The other teams they played include: Middle Tennessee State (3-8), Memphis (5-6), Oklahoma State (5-6), South Carolina (0-11), Vanderbilt (5-6), Auburn (5-6), Louisiana State (3-8), Kentucky (6-6), and Clemson (6-6).
There you have it. They may not have a medal for their efforts, but the 1999 Missisippi State Bulldogs might be the worst 10-win team ever. Look for a post shortly where I examine all the weak 10-win teams of the past decade or so. Any ideas on what the 'winner' of this derby should be known as?