Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen shares a light moment with his team Saturday night. (Photo by Kim Murrell, SDN)
Thatâ€™s exactly how football coach Dan Mullen and the Mississippi State Bulldogs saw themselves entering the season after seven weeks of football.
â€śI canâ€™t speak for the Alabama side of things,â€ť Mullen said during his Sunday teleconference. â€śOur guys wanted to be in this position to play in this game and they expected coming into this season that this is where we would be.â€ť
Mullen isnâ€™t alone.
â€śWeâ€™ve done a great job during the season of being focused on one game at a time, but this summer we knew that if we took care of business, there was a good chance both teams would be undefeated,â€ť MSU quarterback Tyler Russell said. "Thatâ€™s exactly what we wanted and now it is here.â€ť
The Bulldogs jumped a couple positions in the polls this week to No. 13 in The Associated Press poll. They also inched one step closer to the top 10 of the Bowl Championship Standings moving up to No. 11 in the ratings that were released on Sunday night.
While some may look at nationally ranked and 7-0 MSU as untested, thatâ€™s not how Mullen sees it at all.
â€śWeâ€™ve been tested a bunch," Mullen said. "Weâ€™ve had some pretty close games during this season. Alabama will be the best team weâ€™ve played so far, but I guess anybody that plays them will say that about them since theyâ€™re the best team in the country.
â€śOur kids have been through some different tests, theyâ€™ve faced the adversity of success, (and) theyâ€™ve faced the adversity on the field of being put in some rough situations. We had to step up and make some plays. Our guys have been through a lot and we have some good leadership on this team. I feel like theyâ€™ll be ready for the environment weâ€™re going to head into on Saturday night.â€ť
Without question, No. 1 Alabama will be the biggest challenge of the season to date. In fact, the Bulldogs will be an underdog for the first time this season with the Crimson Tide being favored by 24 points.
â€śOver the last five years, theyâ€™ve pretty much had the top recruiting class every year,â€ť Mullen said. â€śTheyâ€™re loaded with talent at every single position, theyâ€™re very deep at every single position and theyâ€™re a well-coached football team.
â€śYou take all that talent, you coach it up really well and the result is the No. 1 defense in the country in just about every category there is. (If you) throw that on top of their offense, and theyâ€™re one of the top offenses in the country with an average score of 41-8, weâ€™ll have our hands full because they have just talent across the board at every single position and theyâ€™re well-coached.â€ť
Although the task will be daunting for the Bulldogs, the players wouldnâ€™t have it any other way according to Mullen.
â€śTheyâ€™ll come out, (and) theyâ€™ll want to play," Mullen said. "Theyâ€™re excited. Thatâ€™s why most of these guys decided to come to Mississippi State. (They wanted) to represent their state university and play in big-time games like this.
"Our guys will be up for the challenge, and theyâ€™ll be excited and ready to put on a good performance and play with great effort on Saturday night.â€ť
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