November 19, 2012 4:04:42 PM
STARKVILLE - In his weekly media teleconference, Mississippi State University head coach addressed the perception he was being more respectful to the rival that he refers to as "the school up north". Mullen quickly responded with his classic chastising of the University of Mississippi program.
"Not on purpose," Mullen said. "I don't have anymore respect for them now than I did last year and the year before or the year before that. Maybe they haven't just changed their mascots or given me the layup to poke fun at them like years past."
Mullen can become the first MSU coach since Allyn McKeen from 1939-42 to win four straight games against the University of Mississippi when the two teams meet Saturday (6 p.m., ESPNU) for the annual Egg Bowl matchup. When asked if he has any advice for Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze in his first rivalry game, Mullen went back to practice week leading up to the 2009 upset of the Bulldogs in Starkville.
"I hope they have as bad a week of practice as we did in 2009," Mullen said. "I left the practice on Thursday going to Thanksgiving thinking we were going to lose by 50. I guess it showed how that worked out too. I think he understands it. One of the things coming in here, whether or not he understood it interviewing for the job, when they named him the head coach I'm sure a lot of people made him understand the importance."
Freeze presented a mix line of thinking toward the Egg Bowl in the summer when he was asked about the games against MSU suggesting his program would know the importance of the contest, especially to the fans involved around the Magnolia state.
"At this point I don't see that as necessarily a priority today," Freeze said in Hoover, Ala., on July 19. "I'm sure there will come a time when that happens again. I give credit to Coach Mullen's staff and his kids for being able to capture the momentum. Our kids understand the importance of that game, I assure you."
Mullen has constantly said the fact that bowl eligibility being on the line for Ole Miss (5-6, 2-5 in Southeastern Conference) will not be an added motivating factor for the Rebels program.
"I could care less if they were 11-0 or 0-11 or whatever it is coming into this game," Mullen said. "When you get in these games, the record is completely irrelevant. Our focus to me is winning that trophy for Mississippi State. That's 100 percent of the focus. What effect it has on them, that has nothing to do with me for the game. If they make a bowl game - obviously I don't want them to make a bowl game this year because that's what it is. If they were 6-5, I'd be happy for the people of Mississippi, having another football game they'd get to watch this year."
I'll have a feature in this week's Dispatch detailing the impact of recruiting to the result of the Egg Bowl one way or another among in-state prospects. Mullen downplayed the result as a contributing factor.
"I think a lot of kids, when you look recruiting wise, a lot of guys know what they're looking for in a school," Mullen said. "If this game had everything to do with the recruiting then I guess we would have gotten every kid the last three years. And I guess they would have gotten every kid the year I got here."
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