Mississippi State has played in six straight bowl games under the leadership of Dan Mullen. The obvious question: Can the Bulldogs make it a lucky seven in 2016?

We won’t get the definitive answer to that question this Saturday when Auburn plays at Starkville, but we will get a strong hint.

Rick Cleveland Credit: Melanie Thortis

It’s difficult to see any way State gets to the required six victories for bowl eligibility without beating Auburn in Saturday’s 11 a.m. game. State is 2-2, coming off a bye week. Auburn, 3-2, is coming off back-to-back home victories over LSU and Louisiana-Monroe.

After Auburn, the Bulldogs play at 2-3 BYU (iffy), at 2-3 Kentucky (State should be favored), Samford (a homecoming victory), 5-0 Texas A & M (underdog), at 5-0 Alabama (heavy underdog), 4-1 Arkansas (underdog), and at 3-2 Ole Miss (underdog).

So, even if the Bulldogs defeat narrowly favored Auburn, six victories isn’t a sure thing by any stretch. Lose to Auburn, and six victories is more or less a pipe dream.

Coaches and players famously play them one game at a time. The rest of us can look ahead. Those last four games are like the famous Murderer’s Row State always used to play.

Bottom line: If State wants to go to a bowl, the Bulldogs better beat Auburn.

And, yes, the South Alabama game continues to haunt.

Read Rick Cleveland daily.

Rick Cleveland, a native of Hattiesburg and resident of Jackson, has been Mississippi Today’s sports columnist since 2016. A graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi with a bachelor’s in journalism, Rick has worked for the Monroe (La.) News Star World, Jackson Daily News and Clarion Ledger. He was sports editor of Hattiesburg American, executive director of the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame. His work as a syndicated columnist and celebrated sports writer has appeared in numerous magazines, periodicals and newspapers.
Rick has been recognized 12 times as Mississippi Sports Writer of the Year, and is recipient of multiple awards and honors for his reporting and writing.