Published October 15, 2012 - 9:15am
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Mississippi State fans feel shunned by the lack of attention or respect thrown their way for the 6-0 start, 3-0 in conference, and Saturday marked the first time the Bulldogs have beaten the Vols since 1994.
MSU then moved up from #19 to #15 in the AP poll and opened at #12 in the BCS. The undefeated Bulldogs are still ranked behind five one-loss teams in the BCS and seven one-loss teams in the AP Poll. Although voters are starting to take note, there’s still a lack of respect.
The team feels it, too.
“I hope the other media people – I don’t know if y’all said it – but I hope they don’t say we still ain’t played nobody,” said cornerback Johnthan Banks, who had a big fumble recovery in the fourth quarter. “Hopefully we’ll get the respect we deserve. Because our team is for real, too.”
Coming off their 41-31 shootout win Saturday, so many are still questioning whether the Bulldogs can make a legitimate run at a West Division Championship. Besides newcomer Texas A&M, MSU remains the biggest question mark and wildcard team in the West.
We can sum up the lack of respect in two words: weak schedule. The Bulldogs have beaten no ranked opponents and get another unranked, inferior opponent in Middle Tennessee State next Saturday before heading to Tuscaloosa to face #1 Alabama. That’s where Mississippi State will earn everyone’s respect if they can upset the Tide.
MSU’s three SEC wins came against the #11, #12 and #13 ranked defenses in the conference, hardly statement games in and of themselves. Of course, those three wins were against Kentucky, Auburn and Tennessee, and all three programs could be scrambling for another head coach at the end of the season. But there’s something to be said about taking care of business and winning the games you are supposed to. They’ve certainly done that.
However, MSU has key games coming up against three ranked opponents and plenty of time to prove the entire country wrong.
Oct. 20: MTSU
Oct. 27: @ #1 Alabama
Nov. 3: #18 Texas A&M
Nov. 10: @ #6 LSU
Nov. 17: Arkansas
Nov. 24: @ Ole Miss
They have two very winnable games – Arkansas and Ole Miss – left on the schedule, but MSU’s division fate will be decided in the next four weeks.
Still, we cannot discount the terrific start the Bulldogs are off to and what Dan Mullen has put together in Starkville. Tyler Russell and his teammates did gain a little more respect on the national scene with the victory against Tennessee. After all, Russell has thrown 12 touchdowns and one interception through seven weeks. The defense has veterans all over the field, and they aren’t afraid to line up against anyone that remains on the schedule. The Bulldogs are fifth in the total defense in the SEC.
It’s imperative that this team stays focused this week on the task at hand, because MTSU is 4-2, having already defeated Georgia Tech on the road. After Saturday, the brutal five-game stretch will ultimately decide how MSU finishes.