Mississippi State is the new No. 1 in The Associated Press college football poll, replacing Florida State and making the fastest rise to the top spot in the history of the poll.
The Bulldogs received 45 first-place votes from the media panel Sunday. Mississippi State beat Auburn 38-23 on Saturday, its third straight victory against a top-10 team. The Bulldogs are the first team in the poll’s 78-year history to go from unranked to No. 1 in five weeks. The previous mark was six weeks by Ohio State in 1954.
The Bulldogs were No. 3 last week, tied with Ole Miss, for their best ranking. Ole Miss stayed at No. 3 this week, two points behind No. 2 Florida State, which beat Syracuse on Saturday.
The defending champion Seminoles had been No. 1 since the preseason. Florida State received 12 first-place votes and Ole Miss three.
Baylor and Notre Dame round out the top five. The Fighting Irish play at Florida State on Saturday. Auburn fell four spots to No. 6.
For the both the Rebels and Bulldogs, it’s been a startling rise after recent struggles. They have rarely been in contention in the Southeastern Conference over the last decade. In the rugged western division, where Alabama (three national titles), LSU (two) and Auburn (one) have been the powers during the BCS era, the Mississippi schools usually have been relegated to the second division.
In Starkville, coach Dan Mullen took over in 2009 and has steadily turned around a program that was flailing. Mullen, the former Florida offensive coordinator under Urban Meyer, is 42-28 at Mississippi State. The Bulldogs were 23-48 in the six seasons before Mullen arrived.
Mullen said Sunday he viewed the No. 1 ranking two ways.
“I couldn’t be happier for the university, the students, the fans and the alumni,” Mullen said. “For so many years you try to accomplish something and to be able to say we’re the best at something is special. But for us as a team – they don’t give out the trophy midseason. We really haven’t accomplished all that much.”
Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze was hired after the Rebels went 2-10 in 2011. They won seven games his first season and eight last year. He landed one of the best recruiting classes in the country between his first and second seasons and now the Rebels are off to their best start since 1962.
Ole Miss beat Texas A&M 35-20 in College Station on Saturday.
Alabama, Oregon, Michigan State and Georgia complete the top 10. No. 22 Southern California moved back into the rankings, along with No. 24 Clemson. No. 25 Marshall, the only unbeaten team from outside the Big Five conferences, is ranked for the first time this season.