Bulldogs try to put distractions aside heading into game week

The Mississippi State football team would certainly like a definition to the term bye week.
The Bulldogs certainly weren’t idle this week because even though they weren’t scheduled to play a game, the program has experienced the tragic death of teammate Nick Bell. Bell, 20, died at University of Alabama-Birmingham Hospital at 3:35 p.m., Tuesday afternoon after undergoing emergency surgery when a form of skin cancer had metastasized through his body.
A capacity crowd, all with heavy hearts at Bettersworth Auditorium in Lee Hall on the Mississippi State campus, came to honor the life of Bell in a memorial service.
Saturday marked Bell’s funeral at the Faith Chapel in Birmingham.
Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen addressed the local media Sunday morning.
“We went through a tough week for the program and tough week for our team,” Mullen said on his weekly teleconference. “Hopefully getting into a game routine will help our guys….you don’t really put anything behind you in a situation like this.”
Later on in the off week, State officials found themselves involved with a scandal about the recruitment of Auburn quarterback Cameron Newton.
When asked directly about the Cam Newton investigation, Mullen responded by saying he was fully confident in his belief that officials at Mississippi State University handled everything perfectly within the NCAA rulebook.
“My thought on that is our people within or program that love Mississippi State, like John Bond, did everything the right way in terms of the NCAA rules we all are required to follow,” Mullen said. “I haven’t thought about the Cam Newton situation since December since he said no. The people that need to know the truth, know the truth.”
State now must focus to play an Alabama team that just lost all hope of a back-to-back national championship game appearance after a 24-21 loss at LSU this past Saturday.
Mullen considers this his most challenging week of preparation given all the off-the-field circumstances combined with playing the defending national champions.
For the first time since 2000, State (7-2, 3-2) will will have a better or equal record in its match up against Alabama when they make the trip this Saturday to Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa. Despite having a week to prepare for the Crimson Tide, Mullen certainly sees the task of achieving State’s third win in Tuscaloosa since 1955 as nothing short of challenging.
“It’s a great team,” State’s second-year head coach said Sunday of Alabama. “They’re a very, very well coached team and has great talent at every position. We’re going to have to play a great football game and follow the plan exactly to win.”
State jumps up in national rankings
Mississippi State jumped in both national polls without playing a game this past weekend.
State is now ranked 17th and 18th respectively in the Associated Press and USA Today Coaches polls.
The Bulldogs, who went up four spots in the Week 11 AP poll, received 501 points and were one of seven Southeastern Conference schools in the rankings. Five of the six Western Division teams made the poll in a higher spot before the pair of Eastern Division schools (South Carolina and Florida).
Oregon was also top-ranked in the Associated Press poll followed by Auburn, TCU, Boise State and LSU at No. 5.
Alabama, MSU’s opponent this week, was ranked 11th.
The Bulldogs (7-2, 3-2 in the Southeastern Conference) achieved another season high by receiving 477 points in the week 11 version of the coaches’ poll that was released Sunday morning. The coaches’ poll is part of the BCS formula used to determine its national champion.
A season-record of seven Southeastern Conference teams (Auburn, LSU, Alabama, Arkansas, MSU, South Carolina and Florida) were a part of the new poll, which was obviously the most of any other league.
Oregon kept the top spot in the coaches’ poll by getting 50 of 59 possible first place votes. Auburn maintained the second spot as the Tigers received four first-place votes. TCU jumped Boise State for the third spot despite only receiving three first-place votes compared to the Broncos four top spots and rounding out the top five this week was Wisconsin.
Mullen is among the 59 head coaches in the voting process in 2010.