That slim margin of error is no longer slim. Mississippi State has to win its last two games of the regular season to be bowl eligible.
Following Saturday's 38-7 loss to No. 5 Alabama, the Bulldogs (4-6) must win their final two games against Abilene Christian and Ole Miss to reach bowl eligibility. Mississippi State has played in nine straight bowl games and now their backs are literally against the wall to keep that streak alive.
"We go in with confidence every week," said head coach Joe Moorhead. "We went into this game with confidence. The kids are down as they should be and they are never going to be pleased with a loss. But we got to reload and get ready for Abilene Christian. We will work to be 1-0 next week and get win No. 5."
Once again, the Bulldogs showed some good signs on both sides of the ball but took several steps backwards in other areas. Mississippi State did rush for 188 yards against Alabama but had just 82 yards passing. Mississippi State allowed 160 rushing to Alabama but gave up 350 through the air.
"We didn't execute well enough to make those big-time plays in the passing game," said center Darryl Williams. "We got the run game going a little bit but we still need a balanced offense to beat a team of that caliber. But credit to those guys."
Which leaves them in a 'must-win' situation the rest of the regular season.
"The mindset is to play our best and win every game we play from here on out," said freshman defensive tackle Jaden Crumedy, who had four tackles on Saturday. "That's what we have to do."
But there's still "confidence" inside the Mississippi State locker room that they can extend the bowl streak to 10 straight seasons. And there's also still trust in each other whether it be on the coaching staff or players.
"There's still a lot of confidence, knowing we still control our destiny for a bowl game," said linebacker Erroll Thompson, who had a team-high 9 tackles and one sack on Saturday. "We just have to win out and it is a big task ahead. We still have confidence in this coaching staff and our teammates, as well."
Of course, with needing two wins to reach that goal, there comes a lot of pressure on the Bulldogs moving forward. There's also that "drive" to get the job done, said Thompson.
"I think it's a little of both," Thompson added. "There is pressure in the sense you have no time to wait. But there's that drive because you know what you got to do to get there. So it's a little of both."
Next up for Mississippi State is the homecoming game against Abilene Christian next Saturday night. Then they have the normal short week of practice before hosting the Egg Bowl on Thanksgiving night. The opportunity is still there but the margin of error is now gone.
"Like Coach said in the locker room, we have to go out and still compete," added Williams. "We can get two more home wins and the opportunity to play in a bowl game. That's what this team is trying to do, get bowl eligible to get another game."