October 26, 2012 11:44:25 AM
Matthew Stevens - [email protected]
STARKVILLE -- What happens if the No. 13 Mississippi State University football team beats defending national champion and No. 1 University of Alabama on Saturday night?
The answer to that question has been bandied about the Starkville campus by students, teachers, administrators, and, yes, the Bulldogs themselves.
The buzz created by the team's matchup at 7:30 Saturday (ESPN) against Alabama (7-0, 4-0 Southeastern Conference) at Bryant-Denny Stadium can't understated. After all, the matchup includes programs that are both undefeated entering the game for the first time in 70 years.
"We'll get a lot of momentum, and I'm sure we'd get more respect from the outside sources," MSU senior linebacker Cameron Lawrence said. "Respect is fine from the outside, but we got respect from this brotherhood and this unit."
Lawrence laughed when he was asked if the MSU coaches played the respect card this week to motivate the Bulldogs (7-0, 3-0).
"Man, this is Alabama. If you can't get fired up for this game, and just the fact this is Alabama, then something is really wrong with you," Lawrence said.
Lawrence's comments may have something to do with the idea MSU's senior class is 0-3 against Alabama. It also is winless against LSU, the University of Arkansas, and the University of South Carolina.
MSU coach Dan Mullen has maintained this week that MSU, which is a 24-point underdog, has been building to this moment where it has arguably its best chance to knock off No. 1 team in the country.
"The winner of this game is in first place in the SEC West. We haven't been in that position before, and that's something we wanted to build on," Mullen said in his weekly SEC teleconference. "We wanted the opportunity to compete for SEC West championships, and here we are. In our fourth season we've put ourselves in position."
Mullen said Wednesday the chance to play in games like the one his team will play in Saturday is what attracted the former University of Florida assistant coach to Starkville in 2009.
"The number one thought I had was, if I can start at home and start in state and get the best players in Mississippi to come play for us, we're going to have a chance to be successful," Mullen said. "Over the last four years, they've done that. Here we are three and a half years later getting to play in a pretty big game late in the season."
Mullen has seen the intensity in which his players and captains are
exhibiting this week translate into their spending more time at the facility and more time in the film room dissecting the Crimson Tide on both sides of the ball.
"You can see their intensity within the preparation really picking up this week," Mullen said. "Our guys understand this is a big game."
What happens after a win? Leave it to the Bulldogs' fourth-year coach to summarize the way only a tunnel-visioned football coach can.
"The winner of this game is in first place in the SEC West," Mullen said. "We haven't been in that position, and that's something we wanted to build on. If we're in first place at the halfway point after this weekend, we're going to feel pretty good. As this league goes, be ready for a bunch more challenging games down the stretch."