Dan Mullen defends league, says other teams aren't 'jumping up and down to schedule' SEC
It’s homecoming in Starkville this week as Mississippi State looks to erase some of the memory of last year’s disappointing loss to Kentucky on a late field goal.
“It always seems to be a battle between the two of us every single year,” coach Dan Mullen told Paul Finebaum during an interview.
Mullen offered his opinion on the Bulldogs’ 4-2 start — and the SEC in general — as they play host to Kentucky on Saturday afternoon.
Mullen said new defensive coordinator Todd Grantham has done a good job mixing and matching and, after they’ve adjusted to a new scheme, players are a little more confident each week.
Quarterback Nick Fitzgerald, who in the preseason was asked to look for more check down plays and manage the game more, has also improved, the coach said.
“He’s coming along. I’m really seeing him make some gains, … get us into the right plays,” Mullen said. “Still, every once in a while, you see him make a questionable decision. One with an interception last week. But those are things that young guys are out there still trying to make plays. You see him growing and maturing from one week to the next.”
While the SEC has taken some criticism for a perceived drop off in strength across the country, especially after Alabama, Mullen said the league remains strong across the board.
“We’ve already played three top 25 teams this year and we haven’t played Alabama yet,” he said. “I think the conference as a whole is still very strong. I think what happens maybe is Alabama has been very dominant at the top and people say it’s a one-team league, but I don’t know that that’s the case. There are other conferences are playing well. I don’t see everybody jumping up and down trying to get the SEC teams on their schedule.”
Mullen described Kentucky’s lone loss to Florida as being because of two “fluke” plays and that the Wildcats were the better team that day.
“Mark (Stoops) has done a good job of building that program, getting their guys to believe, they have talent across the board,” Mullen said. “They’re a legitimate football team from top to bottom. We don’t always get to pick the schedule. We got to play the two best teams in the East this year, so we we’re the team in the West that got that draw this year.”