December 5, 2013 1:40:46 PM
STARKVILLE - Mississippi State is preparing for a invitation to the 2013 Autozone Liberty Bowl.
Multiple sources close to the MSU football program have confirmed to The Dispatch the Bulldogs (6-6) are anticipating to make a return to the bowl game in Memphis, Tenn., for the first time since 2007.
Liberty Bowl executive director Steve Ehrhart declined to comment to The Dispatch except to say the bowl committee is still evaluating potential Southeastern Conference teams before the bowl games are announced Sunday. MSU will not begin bowl practices until after next week when finals are completed. The conference tie-ins for the Liberty Bowl are slated to feature a SEC school against the Conference USA champion.
The Conference USA championship game, played in Rice Stadium in Houston on Saturday, will match up Marshall (9-3) vs. Rice (9-3) at 11 a.m., on ESPN2.
The Dispatch learned this week that the Liberty Bowl committee gave a presentation to MSU officials on Oct. 12 that was based around their hope of selecting MSU based on honoring the 50th anniversary of the 1963 Bulldogs team that defeated North Carolina State in the Liberty Bowl.
"Mississippi State has a great tradition and history with the Autozone Liberty Bowl and it would just complete the loop here and come full circle that 50 years later it would be so fitting to have Mississippi State playing in the game," a source close to the bowl committee told The Dispatch. "To (the bowl committee and executives) history is just so very important."
The MSU ticket office began pre-selling tickets for three bowl destinations: the Liberty Bowl, Advocare V100 Bowl in Shreveport, La., or the BBVA Compass Bowl in Birmingham, Ala.
"We really think those three bowls are the most in play for us after this win," Stricklin said after MSU defeated Ole Miss 17-10 on Thanksgiving night in the Egg Bowl rivalry game.
The Dispatch learned this week the history for MSU fans to not only sell out its ticket allotment but go beyond in filling a bowl stadium with its last three bowl game attendance numbers. The Liberty Bowl committee have hinted the attractiveness of MSU to its game date back to the 2007 'Paint Memphis Maroon' marketing campaign that led to a record announced crowd of 63,816.
MSU has qualified for a bowl in four straight seasons for the first time in program history. MSU had claimed six or more victories in four consecutive campaigns for the first time since 1997-2000. Mullen not only brought back the Golden Egg Trophy to Starkville but has engineered wins in four of the last five meetings against Ole Miss for just the second time since 1950.
After the win over Ole Miss, Mullen immediately began campaigning for a better bowl for the Bulldogs program in the post-game media conference.
"We finished ahead of the school up north," Mullen said. "Not overall but conference record (we were) both 3-5 and we won the head-to-head so I hope the league looks at that," Mullen said. "Hopefully the league gives us the nod, and we get the higher bowl game."
Sources have told The Dispatch that barring any late developments or involvement by the SEC office in Birmingham, Ala., Vanderbilt will be playing in the BBVA Compass Bowl on Jan. 4 due to a mutual understanding between the school administration, the Liberty Bowl and the Music City Bowl.
According to statistical data provided by the MSU Alumni Association, the state of Tennessee has the third-highest amount of MSU alums in the country behind Mississippi and Alabama. Most of that alumni base in the Volunteer state is led by its contingent in the Memphis area.
The last time MSU was invited to the Liberty was in 2007 when the Bulldogs defeated Central Florida 10-3 thanks to two interceptions by the game's most valuable player Derek Pegues. MSU last competed in the Liberty Bowl stadium when they defeated Memphis 59-14 in the 2011 season opener on a Thursday night in front of an announced crowd of 33,990.
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