Here's what we don't know about Mississippi State's 4-0 football team: By the time the Bulldogs complete the SEC West gauntlet of Texas A&M, Auburn, Alabama and Ole Miss, what will be left of them? After all, MSU fans have seen this movie before, and they didn't like the ending. In 2012, they watched the SEC West turn their team's 7-0 start into a four-loss tumble to the Taxslayer.com Gator Bowl.
But here's what we do know: Whatever fate awaits the Bulldogs, they'll navigate it with more raw talent than Dan Mullen has ever had in Starkville. That was never more evident than on Saturday, when Mississippi State beat LSU for the first time on Mullen's watch, and the first time on the road since -- gulp -- Jackie Sherrill's watch. If MSU is capable of beating LSU on the road, they're a dangerous team for any other school in the league. And that's what makes this team different than any Mullen has had.
"We've had some good, talented players in the past, here and there," quarterback Dak Prescott told College Football 24/7. "Fletcher Cox, Johnthan Banks. But just overall on one team, I think we have a lot of freaky talent on this team."
That starts with Prescott himself, and linebacker Benardrick McKinney, two of the most talented players in the country at their respective positions. In three consecutive games, Prescott has passed for 200-plus yards and rushed for more than 100, something never accomplished, as al.com notes, by Tim Tebow, Cam Newton or even Johnny Manziel.
McKinney, a junior, has said he expects to declare for the 2015 NFL Draft, and he's playing like he plans to be one of its biggest prizes. His rugged style reminds one SEC assistant coach of former Alabama star linebacker Rolando McClain, now of the Dallas Cowboys.
"He's 6-5, 250, and runs 4.5," Prescott said. "You're not running around him, and you're not going to break his tackle."
But where failed Mississippi State teams of the past have also had a star player or two, this team doesn't have to be carried by them. Between defensive ends Chris Jones and Preston Smith, outside linebacker Beniquez Brown and cornerback Jamerson Love, McKinney is surrounded by an emerging star in all three defensive units. College Football 24/7 asked Mullen to compare Love to Johnthan Banks and Darius Slay, two former MSU cornerbacks who were second-round NFL draft picks.
"Jamerson is a real speed player for us, where Johnthan had a lot of length and Slay also had some size, but he's up there with those guys as that type of player," Mullen said. "I still think he's improving, still has things to get better at, but he certainly has the talent to play defensively at the next level."
Meanwhile, Prescott enjoys a better array of offensive weapons than any MSU quarterback in recent memory. Running back Josh Robinson is a powerful inside rusher at 5-9, 220. Receiver Jameon Lewis is a small-but-dangerous open-field threat who is well-suited for trick plays, and De'Runnya Wilson (6-5, 225) has been too big a target for most cornerbacks to handle.
"I'll take him one on one with any DB in the country," Prescott said of Wilson.
He'll get that chance.
Because a season of great promise in Starkville still has an awfully long way to go.