Quick Turnaround: Five days separate Bulldogs battle with SEC's Tigers
Mississippi State quarterback Chris Relf, left, hands the football to running back LaDarius Perkins during an offensive drill in practice. (Photo by Kim Murrell, SDN)
There's no denying the difficulty of the challenge tonight for the 25th-ranked Mississippi State Bulldogs.
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Mississippi State tries to get back in control of its Southeastern Conference West destiny when it hosts LSU. The Tigers are a team with a 2-0 record and a No. 3 ranking.
Both teams are on a short week, but MSU head coach Dan Mullen is ready to hit the field despite of the short week.
"It's been a quick turnaround for us this week but we're ready to go," said Mullen during Wednesday's SEC teleconference. "We've played some Thursday night games in the past. I think our guys know how to prepare for this type of game and we're ready to finally get to play our home opener."
The Bulldogs are definitely not strangers to Thursday night games as they opened this season with one in Memphis and played one last season in week two against Auburn. Some coaches don't like the idea of Thursday night games, but Mullen isn't one of them.
"I like playing Thursday night games," said Mullen. "I watch every single Thursday night game, so the whole country is watching Thursday night football games, so it's great exposure for your program."
MSU gets plenty of exposure tonight as the game is going to be televised on ESPN as it goes against the tough Tigers. LSU has several new personnel in place this year, whether it be quarterback Jarrett Lee or a new offensive coordinator, but Mullen feels head coach Les Miles is the reason for their offensive success.Â
"LSU is finding their personality," said Mullen. "They are still a physical team that wants to run the football and that's Les' personality and that team takes on the personality of its coach."
The last two times, the two met, the Tigers got the best of the Bulldogs and their winning streak in the series is at 11.
"The last two years we played them, we turned the ball over a couple of times," said Mullen. "We gave them a big punt return my first year here and didn't convert a fourth-and-goal to win the game and last year we turned the ball over five times."
To end the Tigers' winning streak, State will have to play as close to flawless football as possible.
"We have to follow the plan to win," said Mullen. "We have to take care of the football, play great defense, score in the red zone and win the kicking game. Whether we've beat them 50 straight years or lost 50 straight years, if you follow that plan, you're going to win and if we do that, we will win and if we don't, we won't."
If the Bulldogs pull out the upset win on Thursday night, Mullen won't be focused on breaking the winning streak.
"It would be great for our team to get back on track and get back into the SEC West race," said Mullen. "There's no better challenge than LSU, who is probably the best team in the country right now and we get them at home in a great atmosphere on national television so it should be a great game."
If the Tigers win like predicted by most of the country, MSU's hopes for a SEC West title could be destroyed, but Mullen doesn't feel a loss would completely end their title hunt.
"There is so much depth in our side of the league and there's so much competition I don't think that's the case." said Mullen. "Look the team who won the East last year, they had three losses, so there's a lot of football to be played this year whether we win or lose, and with the depth of this league, you don't know what's going to happen."
Many of the Bulldog players will take the field with a chip on their shoulder after last week's heartbreaking loss to Auburn, and even though senior quarterback Chris Relf didn't get into the end zone on the final play Saturday, Mullen is happy with the play of his senior signal caller.
"I think there are a lot of guys on our team especially Chris that are angry with that loss, because they expected to win that game," said Mullen. "One game does not make your season, career or define who you are as a person. I'm really pleased with Chris' development and how he has changed as a person over the past couple of years and this is just another block in building the character and develop the man he's going to be in the future."
Some questions have risen about the MSU linebackers not having much experience as they are starting all new ones from a year ago. After two weeks the new linebackers have made mistakes, but it's a work in process.
"We got some young players that haven't played a lot of football, but we're getting there," said Mullen. "Our depth is growing and we have players that we have to get SEC ready and they're still developing."