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Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
|AP Photo/ Jim Lytle|
|Jamar Chaney (22) and the Bulldogs are looking to improve on an eight-win season.|
While most of the questions around the league concerning Mississippi State have revolved around whether the Bulldogs can match last season's success, senior middle linebacker Jamar Chaney has a different spin on it.
Chaney, one of 21 seniors on this year's Mississippi State team, said it's more about whether the Bulldogs can take it to another level.
He's not interested in the status quo.
"We won eight games last year. That was just a start," Chaney said. "We're looking forward to winning more than eight games this year. That's the attitude Coach (Sylvester) Croom put in our heads. You build on what you did the year before, not live off of it. Eight wins isn't going to be enough this year."
The Bulldogs open practice on Sunday, and if they're going to take that next step, they will almost certainly have to be more productive on offense this season. In six of their 13 games a year ago, they were held under 20 points.
But as Chaney correctly points out, they won four of those games. He said that's a testament to Croom and his ability to instill in the program how to win.
"The first thing with Coach Croom is that you learn not to quit," said Chaney, one of seven returning starters on defense. "The year before (2006), we lost four games by three points or less. You learn from that. You grow from that. We won those games last year.
"We have a lot of leadership, guys who've played two and three years now and have gone through some hard times. They know what it takes to win these tough games."
The schedule sets up nicely for Mississippi State, but only if the Bulldogs can get off to a good start. They open on the road against Louisiana Tech and then have back-to-back home games against Southeastern Louisiana and Auburn before playing at Georgia Tech.
A 3-1 start in those games would make eight wins a real possibility again. Keep in mind that the Bulldogs have won more than three games in a season only once since 2001 -- that one time coming last season.
Given where Croom found the program, a second straight eight-win season would be quite an accomplishment.
Just don't tell that to Chaney.
"We finished with eight wins last year, which put us about sixth or seventh in the league," Chaney said. "That's not our goal. We want to be one of the top teams in the SEC. You've got to win 10 games or more to achieve that, and we believe we're one of the top teams in the SEC this year."