Dan Mullen has been anything but quiet since arriving in Starkville a few years ago. His brash personality coupled with plenty of shots at their in-state rival have given Mississippi State fans some swagger in recent years. Egg bowl victories and quality bowl wins over teams like Michigan have given this program some energy and most of it can be credited back to Mullen.
It’s a little different right now in Starkville.
After a 7-0 start and the Mississippi State Bulldogs creeping up in the polls for the first half of the season, Mullen’s team finished the year losing 4 of the last 5 games. A look at the schedule tells a clear story. The first seven weeks of the year were against four non-conference cupcakes, Auburn, Kentucky and Tennessee. Not exactly a brutal stretch.
After starting 7-0, Mississippi State subsequently got crushed in three straight games to Alabama, Texas A&M and LSU. The combined score of the three games was 113-37. After a win against Arkansas, Mississippi State then went on to lose the all-important Egg Bowl to Ole Miss 41-24.
It’s interesting to note that the two head coaches took different stances on recruiting heading into the Egg Bowl. Mullen downplayed the significance:
“If this game had everything to do with recruiting, then we would have gotten every kid in the last three years,” Mullen said. “And I guess they would have gotten every kid the year before I got here. I think that a lot of guys know what they are looking for in a school.
“Knowing what type of values are instilled in the football program, how they want to be developed, how the program runs, what the community and the town is like-all of that just has to fit who they are. So, I don’t know that the outcome of this game always determines that. It will definitely give them bragging rights, but it just is what it is.”
Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze on the other hand said the following:
“I have seen it where the team that doesn’t win this game can convince players to join them to be the difference-makers, but it’s hard,” Freeze said. “In this rivalry game, it is important no doubt and will make the difference in some kids’ minds. I’ve also seen it where a few key kids want to come and play early and help change the outcome of the year before. I do think it would help in recruiting kids leaning towards other schools.”
Right now, it’s hard to deny that the momentum within the state of Mississippi belongs to the Rebels. Coming off a rebound year with new coach Hugh Freeze and a win in the Egg Bowl, Freeze is also doing very well in recruiting.
The buzz around #1 recruit Robert Nkemdiche is that he’s likely to commit to Ole Miss potentially as early as this month. However, he could wait and decide on national signing day. Either way, it looks good for the Rebels.
Additionally, five-star WR recruit Laquon Treadwell recently named Ole Miss his leader. If Freeze can sign both Treadwell and Nkemdiche, it will be a cherry on top of an already otherwise great season.
I’m not sure we’re going to see Dan Mullen put up another one of these billboards anytime soon.
Photo credit: Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports