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Sound of Music: Bulldogs headed for bowl in Nashville

December 4, 2011

Coach Dan Mullen, middle, and the Mississippi State Bulldogs play in the Music City Bowl on Dec. 30 against Wake Forest. (Photo by John Bazemore, AP)

Participating in an NCAA postseason bowl game in Nashville, Tenn., was music in the ears of the Mississippi State Bulldogs.
On Sunday afternoon, the Bulldogs accepted an invite from the 2011 Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl.
"We are very excited," said MSU athletic director Scott Stricklin during a Sunday teleconference. "We have a bunch of Bulldogs who are ready to go to Nashville. I know we will turn out in a big numbers and we can't wait for the end of the month to get here so we can go up there and enjoy the bowl game."
The Music City Bowl will be held on December 30 at Nashville's LP Field, which is home to the Tennessee Titans of the National Football League, and will kick off at 5:40 p.m. The opponent will be Wake Forest out of the Atlantic Coast Conference.
"We're excited to be going to Nashville to play in the Music City Bowl," said MSU head coach Dan Mullen. "We finished the regular season winning a championship, winning the Egg Bowl, and now we have the opportunity now to play in a great bowl game and win a championship in a bowl game. It always sticks with you and we'll be counting on our senior leadership to get that done so they can finish their careers the right way."
Mullen and Stricklin clearly aren't the only ones excited as MSU fans have already sold out the 12,000 ticket allotment, but that's no surprise to Stricklin. 
"Based on last year, I can't say I'm surprised," said Stricklin. "We took 30,000 Mississippi State people to Jacksonville last year and Nashville is a little more central to our fans base, so I'm not surprised that we would have a great response."
The Music City Bowl's CEO Scott Ramsey is also excited about the MSU fans that will descend on Nashville. 
"We couldn't be more pleased with having the chance to host Mississippi State as one of the schools we have yet to be able to host," said Ramsey. "We are really looking forward to having all of the coaches, players and fans in Nashville for a few days in late December."
Ramsey made it sound like the Music City Bowl has been targeting the Bulldogs for several years, but things never worked out.
"Since we started the game, it's a fan base we've always looked for an opportunity to host," said Ramsey. "We're excited about having the MIssissippi State fans and we've gotten great response from them and we really look forward to hosting them."
The MSU fans who make the trip will be allowed to bring and ring their cowbells. However, they will have to ring them according to the SEC's rules like they have done all season.
"We talked about it and decided to allow them in," said Ramsey. "It's something we are excited about having and know it will be a memorable piece of our city that Mississippi State leaves behind. We think it will add a great piece of character to the game."
The amount of fans that will be in attendance mixed with the Bulldogs second bowl appearance also help on the recruiting side of the program as well as the current team.
"In recruiting, making a bowl game two years in a row, a lot of players see the direction that our program is going in," said Mullen. "I know Bulldog fans will travel, and we are going to have a huge following at that game, a lot of support. When recruits turn on the T.V. and see an NFL stadium full of maroon, that's sure going to be a push for us in the right direction."
Making a bowl game in two consecutive years is a huge step for MSU whose bowl appearances have been few a far between over the years prior to Mullen. 
"A couple of years ago, we were trying to build a foundation for a program and I think making it to two-straight bowl games is a solid foundation as we continue to pursue championships here," said Mullen. "The chance to win over another BCS school in a great bowl game would be another push in the right direction."
The Bulldogs didn't have the season they had hoped for this year, but making it to the bowl game has turned things around a bit for State.
"Making a bowl game has really in my mind of made it a great season," said Mullen. "Obviously winning bowl game will push it over the top and give us great momentum going into the offseason, but I do think the program's got a lot of momentum right now."
Wake Forest is coming off a 41-7 loss to Vanderbilt and even though Mullen didn't know who his opponent would be at the time of the teleconference, he seemed excited about whichever one was selected.
"They are a conference of great football teams," said Mullen. "We respect them a lot and any of those opponents sound like a great challenge to us and a great matchup. Anytime the Southeastern Conference plays an ACC team I think you're going to get a great matchup between two premier football universities."
The Bulldogs, who dominated Michigan in the Gator Bowl last season, will use their experience from last season to prepare for this game.
"We're not going to change a whole lot about our bowl schedule prep," said Mullen. "We had a good plan last year and I think our guys did a great job of focusing and understanding the bowl game."
MSU will begin practice on Friday, which will be open to the public.

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