Why Mississippi State football's Zach Arnett is confident about chances in expanded playoff

Mississippi Clarion Ledger
NASHVILLE -- In the first ever College Football Playoff poll back in 2014, Mississippi State sat atop the rankings at the No. 1 spot. First-year head coach Zach Arnett believes the Bulldogs will get back there once the College Football Playoff expands to 12 teams next season, he said Tuesday at SEC Media Days.
"You look back to some of the years they've had, when they had Dak Prescott, there's four nine-win seasons in the last nine years," Arnett said. "You can look back to that special season with Prescott, I believe it was 2014. It that's a 12-team playoff, they're in the playoff. I mean, the proof is in the pudding."
Mississippi State sat above .500 for six consecutive seasons (2010-2015) under Dan Mullen, who won SEC Coach of the Year honors in 2014. In that season, the Bulldogs finished with a 10–2 regular-season record and had their first No. 1 ranking in program history prior to a loss to Georgia Tech in the Orange Bowl.
The Bulldogs went 9–4 last season under Mike Leach, who died in December. They concluded the season with a 19-10 win over Illinois in the ReliaQuest Bowl, where Arnett earned his first victory as head coach while serving as interim. Mississippi State players accompany Arnett in confidence that the Bulldogs will get back to their glory days in the early 2010s.
"We just want to be able to win each week and bring back all the fans and make everybody happy and in our community," Bulldogs running back Jo'Quavious Marks said. "To do that, it starts in training camp and in the weight room. I know that's something Coach (Arnett) takes seriously, and we're ready for the challenge."
Arnett, a former college football player at New Mexico (2005-2008), started his coaching journey as a graduate assistant at San Diego State before being promoted to linebackers coach. He was hired as Mississippi State's defensive coordinator in 2020. Despite being the youngest head coach in the conference, Arnett is aware that recruiting in the South is crucial in the SEC.
"There is data to look back on and go, yeah, if you can recruit and put a team on the field at that high of a level and have that level of success in this league, you're in the expanded playoff," Arnett said. "We're fortunate as coaches, we live in the most fertile recruiting ground there is for college football players, the state of Mississippi. And then you expand out from there, Louisiana, Alabama, Florida, Tennessee, Georgia. If you can't find players in this footprint then you ain't going to be a coach very long."

Players mentioned in this article

Zach Arnett

Dak Prescott

Alex Barnett

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