10 September 2011
It's about two hours to kickoff. So far so good, no unexpected suspensions or injuries. State goes into Jordan Hare as a 7 point favorite. I can't remember the last time that happened, if at all.
Putting aside the importance of this game from a conference perspective, there is something that makes this game especially intriguing. Yes, Mullen wants to beat a West team that isn't named the Bears. Yes, State must have this one if they truly plan to contend for the division title. Yes, this is the one that got away last year and the Dogs want it back.
But, more than that, this is a game that State is favored to win...on the road...in the SEC...while they carry a top 20 ranking. When is the last time THAT happened?
As much as I love my Dogs I have no problem admitting that this football program doesn't exactly have a track record of success. Some would even say there is a tradition of losing in MSU football. Heck, even Jackie Sherrill finished at .500 for his career, and most of us would consider him the program's all-time best. When you have that losing tradition a mindset develops. And when that mindset develops it's hard to break. And when you find yourself ranked top 20, favored by 7 on the road against the defending national champion, it's almost impossible to find a way to win.
State teams in the past would go into Jordan Hare today and fold like a lawn chair. They'd lose and lose big and leave us fans once again disappointed. State teams in the past couldn't handle success. Couldn't handle prosperity. They couldn't handle it because it was so rare that they were never taught how to handle it. State has always played best as an underdog. And when they occasionally played as a favorite against teams they're usually not supposed to beat it rarely ends well for the Dogs.
So what happens today when the 16th ranked Dogs go to Auburn, favored by a TD, against the defending national champ and a team that usually beats us?
Well, therein lies the intrigue. We all know that Mullen has done a great job teaching these kids the game of football, teaching them discipline and poise. He's energized the fanbase like never before. It's been a long time since people talked about Mississippi State the way they do now. But has he changed the mindset of his players? In short, has he taught these kids how to win? How to handle prosperity?
That's what we find out today. On paper, State should win this game. If they go in and play a solid game, with minimal mistakes, they WILL win this game. On paper, they're better than Auburn, by double digit points. So the only way they lose is if they beat themselves. And the only way they beat themselves is if they still haven't learned how to be winners.
My pick: State 38, Auburn 16
Mullen has done a lot more in Starkville than teach these kids football. This team just seems to have a different attitude.
Bama 28, PSU 7
TSUN 21, Salukis 14
Vandy 27, UCONN 19
Georgia 23, SC 21
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