HOOVER, Ala. -- Mississippi State is No. 1 again this year ...
... the No. 1 choice to finish last in the Southeastern Conference Western Division.
It's funny because the Bulldogs went 10-3 last season. During one stretch, the polls ranked them No. 1 in the nation for five straight weeks. They have the top quarterback in the league returning in first-team All-SEC performer Dak Prescott. He might be the best player in the conference.
They haven't had a losing season since 2009, which was Dan Mullen's first season as MSU's head coach. It's also the last time the Bulldogs actually finished last in the SEC West.
Even so, the Bulldogs occupy the bottom spot on just about every SEC poll you'll find this summer.
But it's OK. Mullen understands: "I've been coming here for seven years, and it seems like we're always picked last. It's a tradition."
This year, it's partly the result of Mississippi State losing all but four starters on offense and all but four on defense. Mullen says he has a lot of guys back who played a lot even though they weren't on the field for the first play of the game.
They may have a lot of guys, but it's clear nobody believes they're the right ones. It's like the country believes Mississippi State has a lot of triple-threat players -- fumble, fail and fall.
Maybe it's partly having to play in the SEC Western Division. A West team has won the SEC title every year since Mullen arrived at MSU. Before that, he spent four years as Florida's offensive coordinator when the East won the title three times.
Last year, Mississippi State beat Auburn and LSU in the same season for the first time since 1999. Then the Bulldogs entered their annual game with Alabama at 9-0 and ranked No. 1.
And got smacked by the Tide again.
Since Mullen became the coach, it seems like it's been a lot of "Mississippi State was having a great season until they played Alabama."
In 2012, MSU was 7-0 before losing to Alabama. The Bulldogs had a six-game win streak before losing to the Tide in 2010.
The only time Mississippi State has beaten Alabama, Auburn and LSU in the same season was 1980, which was 12 years before the divisional format and the league title game began. An early season loss to Florida cost the Bulldogs a tie with Georgia for the SEC championship.
Still, maybe reputation plays the biggest role in Mississippi State automatically going last on so many ballots this year.
MSU hasn't won the league since 1941 -- four years before the league's oldest coach, South Carolina's Steve Spurrier, was born. Nobody is expecting that to change anytime soon.
It eats at Prescott, whose spin on last year's 25-20 loss to Alabama is this: "One more minute, one more drive on offense ... who knows?"
"We have a chip on our shoulder every year," Prescott said. "To have the season we had last year and still be placed where we're being placed, that chip is growing a bit."
Prescott and his teammates are fighting history. There are three constants in life: death, taxes and almost nobody thinking Mississippi State can win big.
Contact Anniston Star Sports Editor Mark Edwards at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @MarkSportsStar.