By DANNY P. SMITH
The Mississippi State Bulldogs seemed to say all of the right things Monday.
During Media Day on campus, the players and coaches were bombarded with questions about the upcoming season, which starts in less than a month at Memphis on Thursday, Sept. 1.
MSU head coach Dan Mullen sounded like a broken record as he emphasized that getting to Atlanta, Ga., and the Southeastern Conference Championship Game as a goal for the program.
The Bulldogs have only played in the SEC Championship Game once and that was when Jackie Sherrill's 1998 squad won the Western Division and was beaten by eventual national champion Tennessee.
Any SEC team that participates in the SEC Championship Game puts itself in a position to win a national title. The last five national champions have come from the SEC.
In order for MSU to make it to that status, it must first show it can compete in the SEC West.
The Bulldogs have to prove they can beat Auburn, Alabama, Arkansas and LSU, something they haven't done since Mullen took over as coach.
"Coach reminds us every day that we are only 2-8 in the SEC West ," MSU cornerback Corey Broomfield said Monday. "We haven't done anything yet."
Not to get into too much here about what the Bulldogs need to do this season to be successful, there should be an indication early on exactly how things are going to go. Just like last year, MSU opens the SEC slate with back-to-back games against Western Division foes Auburn and LSU. If the Bulldogs happen to drop one or both of those contests, it will make the goal of winning the West a definite uphill climb without even making it past 1/3 of the season.
Mullen said during SEC Media Days that MSU could have a more talented team this year and still have a worse record and he probably had the schedule in mind when he said it.
The Bulldogs are going to have to be very good on the days they play Auburn, LSU, Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama and Arkansas. If MSU loses to those teams, it will come down to the Ole Miss game on Nov. 26 to determine bowl eligibility.
That's a road I'm sure the Bulldogs would rather not take.
Danny P. Smith is sports editor and columnist for the Starkville Daily News. The opinions in this column are his and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Daily News or its staff.