STARKVILLE — Mississippi State’s 2022 football schedule rates as one of the hardest in the country.
In addition to facing all six other teams in the Western division of the Southeastern Conference, the Bulldogs get the top two teams from the East, too. MSU will play all six SEC teams ranked in the preseason AP Top 25 poll.
That’s life for the Bulldogs in college football’s premier conference right now. But it might not always be that way, athletic director John Cohen hinted Monday.
Cohen told the Starkville Rotary Club that when Texas and Oklahoma join the SEC in 2025, the conference’s current East/West model is set to change.
For the Bulldogs, that can only be good news.
“I will tell you this: We will not have Eastern and Western divisions, thank goodness,” Cohen said. “If you put our football team right now in the Eastern division of the Southeastern Conference, without naming any names, we’re ranked in the top 15 in the country right now. Every prognosticator goes, ‘Oh, they’re playing those guys? They’re playing those guys?’ That’s a top-15 team.”
Instead of getting some of the SEC East’s bottom-feeders, including Missouri and Vanderbilt, MSU drew defending national champion Georgia as well as its permanent “crossover” game against top-25 foe Kentucky.
Consequently, Mississippi State was receiving votes in the preseason poll rather than earning a number next to its name.
“Our football team ‘gets’ the opportunity to play Alabama, Georgia, Texas A&M, our friends up north (Ole Miss), LSU, Kentucky — who’s ranked in the top 20,” Cohen said.
That list could grow longer when the Sooners and Longhorns join the fray. The SEC has discussed moving to nine conference games from the current eight; the Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12 all play nine league games.
Cohen said he hopes the league will hold steady at eight SEC games when it expands.
“If you talk to people around the country who are playing nine conference games, they will tell you, ‘We wish we would have never gone to nine games,’” Cohen said. “It’s one of the few things that the SEC still has as a chip in its back pocket to negotiate with — that ninth game.
“I don’t know which direction in 2025, when we move to a 16-team league,” he added. “I do not know how that will shake out — whether we play nine or eight games.”
- Balconies are go: The new Balconies at Davis Wade Stadium are in place ahead of Saturday’s season opener against Memphis. The $2.5 million project replaces more than 1,000 seats in the corners of the upper deck on the stadium’s west side. Cohen called it a bigger version of the Left Field Lounge at Dudy Noble Field. “We’re so excited about this opportunity,” he said. “It’s another premium opportunity for our fanbase.” The Balconies will cut the stadium’s capacity down to 60,133 this season from a previous mark of 62,000, Cohen said.
- Scoreboards are up: The main videoboards in the north and south end zones at Davis Wade Stadium have been replaced, and new ribbon boards have been added across the east and west sides. The new technology, which cost $9 million — plus $1.5 million for the equipment control room — will incorporate more statistics for in-game use as well as displaying scores from around the country.
- More legroom: Most rows of bleacher seats at Davis Wade Stadium feature only 27 to 28 inches of “tread length” in between rows. Cohen said that was big enough for spectators in the 1910s, when the stadium was built, but that no longer holds true. “If you’re over 5-foot-9 or 5-foot-10, there’s a very good chance that your knees could be somewhere in the back of the person who’s in front of you,” he said. MSU plans to revamp its seating stadium wide in the next three or four years, expanding tread length on the west side and then continuing through the rest of the stadium.
- Goodbye, orange: Mississippi State is set to stain the red-orange brick on Humphrey Coliseum a darker color to match the color of its other athletics facilities, Cohen said. The Hump is currently under construction, with the section of Lakeview Boulevard being moved east and a new entry plaza built in its stead. There will be a club seating area along the sideline between the lower and upper bowls. Cohen said Monday construction on the project — set to be completed by November 2023 — should be finished “quicker than we think.”
Theo DeRosa reports on Mississippi State sports for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter at @Theo_DeRosa.