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Mullen, Freeze lead list of rising coaches

Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen has had an upswing in momentum. AP Photo/Jim Lytle

College football is a love-me, love-me-not world. We know that. It’s emotional, and those emotions cause opinions to shift, and shift quickly, based mostly on wins and losses.

The lesson: If you’re winning, cash in while you can.

A year ago, Dan Mullen was the captain of yet another buoyant-but-not-beautiful ship at Mississippi State -- yet another .500-ish team. I didn’t have him on any sort of hot-seat watch, but some peers did. There was little momentum in Starkville.

And now? Mullen’s team is a 5-0 darling, having smashed LSU on the road and Texas A&M at home. His name has and will come up for probable openings at Florida and Michigan.

A guy who has worked to distance himself from being “Urban Meyer’s offensive coordinator” is legitimately doing that. He’s built a team, but fellow coaches are taking note of something more than personnel. There’s a new mojo.

The Mississippi State of old would have had a late collapse at LSU, succumbing to Les Miles’ voodoo ways. It was a hurdle cleared, a new day.

“Look out,” another SEC coach said following the Bulldogs’ win in Baton Rouge, “Dan Mullen gets the bounces now and Les Miles doesn’t. How about that?”

Besides bounces, it helps -- a bunch -- to have the SEC’s best quarterback, Dak Prescott, a nice balance of speed and size around him and pro-quality linemen on both sides of the ball.

It’s a team equipped with the players to win the country’s most difficult division. If it does that, or even gets close, coaches agree that Mullen, 42, should get the heck out of there.

Winning in Starkville is possible, but in spurts and with short windows. Sustainability is an incredible challenge even where the resources are greatest. It’s a better job than it has ever been, coaches say, but let’s not mistake Mississippi State for Florida.

Here are other Power 5 head coaches who have upped their stock in the first six weeks