Mullen explains significance of in-state rivalries in college football
The Mississippi State Bulldogs will take on the Southern Miss Golden Eagles Saturday for the first time since the 1990 season, reigniting an in-state rivalry that laid dormant for more than two decades.
Bulldogs’ head coach Dan Mullen was asked about the game in his first weekly press conference of the 2014 season Monday, and the Bulldogs’ head coach explained the significance of in-state rivalries compared to all other games on the schedule.
“It’s huge. It’s an in-state game. It’s not going to be the same as that, you know what I mean? There is no game that is going to be the same as that for us, ever,” Mullen told the media.
Mississippi State will play both of the Magnolia state’s other FBS teams this season, opening the year with a game against Southern Miss (of Conference USA) and closing the year with the annual Egg Bowl against Ole Miss. His Bulldogs also took on the state’s two SWAC programs over the last two years, beating Alcorn State 51-7 in 2013 and topping Jackson State 56-9 in 2012.
MSU should win just as easily on Saturday against a Southern Miss team with just one win during the last two seasons combined, but as Mullen explained, an in-state rivalry creates a special atmosphere that goes beyond the game itself.
“The Championship Game is probably not going to have the same emphasis as (an in-state game),” Mullen said Monday. “I mean that’s something that is just different as everybody knows in the state here. I think by playing those other ones our guys understand the importance of in-state rivalries.
“One, they know that from the Egg Bowl. But also by playing other in-state teams, they know what it is like and what guys are bringing to the table when they show up here, how hungry this team is going to be that we’re going to play,” Mullen continued. “The fact that it is an in-state game and they’re going against guys they’ve known and bragging rights back home, our guys really understand that.”
A number of players on both the Mississippi State and Southern Miss rosters played high school football in the state of Mississippi, and Saturday’s game is sure to fuel plenty of smack talk between former teammates and former prep rivals alike.
“It’s something that I’ve embraced since the day I got here, and our guys know in getting to play a team like Southern Miss how important the in-state rivalries are and how big they are for you as a player and for your bragging rights and for you to go home and for your family in their home town and at your high school. And for all our fans,” Mullen said. “Our guys understand that so that what makes it fun. That’s why I’m glad we’re playing this game.”
Only one player on MSU’s roster – Rashun Dixon – was alive the last time the Bulldogs took on Southern Miss. Dixon, who arrived at Mississippi State this summer after closing the book on his minor league baseball career, was one month old when the two teams played in 1990.