October 21, 2013 5:38:42 PM
STARKVILLE - Mississippi State football coach Dan Mullen isn't buying that last weekend should be dubbed 'Upset Saturday in the SEC' but acknowledges his players might be doing just that.
"In this league you have to play your A game and it's a pretty simple deal," Mullen said Monday when he met with the media in the Leo Seal Family Football Complex. "If you come in and play sloppy, you go turn the ball over a bunch in the first half, it doesn't matter who you're playing - you're not going to win the game. If you play real well, you have a chance to win the game. That holds true always and the upset part is something I don't always see."
I'll have a feature in Tuesday's edition of The Dispatch about the perception of what was considered upsets in the Southeastern Conference Saturday as Auburn, Ole Miss, Vanderbilt and Tennessee all knocked off teams ranked in the Top 15 this past weekend.
The same perspective isn't shared by the 18-22 year old players in Mullen's locker room.
"Especially with young players, we talk about that kind of stuff and say when you look at the games that are played...if we play our best game I think we can play with anybody in the league," Mullen said. "If we don't play our best game, we can lose to anybody in the league. It's that focus of performing at the highest level."
As a program, Mississippi State (3-3, 0-2 in SEC) has only been a double-digit favorite against SEC opponents seven times over the last 20 years.
"The way we see it nowadays in college football is anybody is willing to get beat," MSU senior linebacker Deontae Skinner said. "You have to play well in order to go and get that W."
Here's some other tidbits to Mullen's Monday media conference:
Mullen reiterated MSU sophomore defensive tackle Nick James will continue to be on a program to be redshirted this season and discussed briefly the former four-star recruits' progress on and off the field.
"He's done a great job," Mullen said. "Within the development of a program, there's a lot of things we look for to make sure guys are developing the right way. He's really working hard in school and working hard to take care of things the right way. He has a long way to go but he's certainly headed in the right direction."
Thursday night will mark MSU defensive line coach David Turner's first game against Kentucky since leaving the Wildcats program to rejoin MSU's staff this offseason.
"David has great experience as a defensive line coach and experience coaching here before and a long-term coach in the Southeastern Conference," Mullen said. "He knows how to deal with guys and you look at our defensive line, we have guys in so many different stages of a career and how you have to deal with everybody as a whole and individually as well."
I asked Mullen about the development of junior defensive back Justin Cox as he begins the second half of his first season at the Division 1 level. After coming from West Point High School and East Mississippi Community College, Cox has two starts this season and 13 total tackles and might be asked to perform more responsibility with the unknown injury of Jamerson Love still overshadowing.
"It's about the understanding of the game because there's a very fine line between being a playmaker and doing your job," Mullen said. "The most important thing is do your job then be a playmaker within the description of your job. That's tough for some guys. Some guys never get it figured out. A lot of junior college players get to freelance out on the field a lot and then they have to learn the system."
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