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MSU football likely won't play on Thursday in 2014


Matthew Stevens



STARKVILLE -- After being the most consistent participant in the Southeastern Conference's Thursday Night Football telecasts on ESPN, Mississippi State University won't participate in a mid-week affair in 2014. 


The conference schedule for next season released Wednesday afternoon by the league office all but assured MSU fans that all 13 of the football team's games will be on Saturday. In past years, the ESPN Thursday night games have been announced later in the year and dates have been moved, but MSU Director of Athletics Scott Stricklin confirmed to The Dispatch on Wednesday he doesn't see a mid-week game happening in 2014. 


"I don't anticipate any of our home games being on Thursday night, and I'm not aware of any conversations that would put a road game on that day, either," Stricklin said in a text message. 


If MSU doesn't play on Thursday, it would mark the third time (2009, 2012, 2014) in six years under coach Dan Mullen, MSU wouldn't play a mid-week game. Mullen has said he is uneasy about being a yearly participant in the league's Thursday night telecasts on ESPN. 


"I think it's safe to say certain schools in the league initially had no desire to play on Thursday and immediately other schools in the league, like Mississippi State, understood the value of the exposure element," said former MSU Athletics Director Larry Templeton, a consultant to the SEC on scheduling matters. 


This season, MSU will play its 16th game on ESPN's Thursday night showcase when it plays host to the University of Mississippi in the 2013 Egg Bowl matchup on Thanksgiving night. 


"It gives MSU, Ole Miss, and the state of Mississippi a national exposure platform, which is always beneficial," Stricklin said. "The routine in the past for Mississippians was spend Thanksgiving day with family and head to the game. It's neat folks get to do that again." 


According to ESPN's media research, Virginia Tech University leads all Division 1 programs with 26 home and away games combined on ESPN's Thursday night showcase followed by Georgia Tech University with 24. Georgia Tech has been the host more times than any school (18 games) followed by Virginia Tech at 15. Brigham Young University and North Carolina State University have played host to 12 games. The University of Miami and MSU are at 11. 


According to the school's football media guide, MSU is 18-25-2 in Thursday games. 


For the ninth time in school history -- and the fifth time in the past six seasons -- MSU will play seven home games. With a 14-week calendar, each SEC team also will have two off weeks in 2014. MSU will travel to the University of Kentucky on Oct. 25 and will play host to Vanderbilt University on Nov. 22. It will be the Commodores' first trip to Starkville since 2008. The SEC portion of the schedule begins with a trip to Baton Rouge, La., on Sept. 20 to face LSU. The Bulldogs opened the SEC slate against the Tigers from 1992 until 1995, and again in 2007. The road schedule features the program's first trip to Mobile, Ala., to play the University of South Alabama on Sept. 13. 


The 2014 schedule is based on a 12-year rotation of conference opponents, which includes six divisional contests for each team, and games against one permanent non-divisional opponent and one rotating non-divisional opponent. 


MSU will open the season Aug. 30 in a renovated and expanded Davis Wade Stadium against the University of Southern Mississippi. It will mark the first time since 1990 the schools' football teams will meet. 


MSU also will play host to the University of Alabama at Birmingham (Sept. 6), Texas A&M University (Oct. 4), Auburn University (Oct. 11), the University of Arkansas (Nov. 1), and the University of Tennessee-Martin (Nov. 8). It will play at the University of Alabama on Nov. 15. 


n Mississippi finalizes 2014 schedule: At Oxford, the University of Mississippi will open its 2014 schedule Aug. 28 with a neutral-site game against Boise State University at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. 


Ole Miss will begin conference play with a road game against Vanderbilt on Sept. 6. It won't play another SEC opponent until an Oct. 4 home matchup against Alabama. 


Ole Miss alternates home and away games throughout its SEC schedule. The home games are against Alabama, the University of Tennessee, Auburn, and MSU. Road games are against Vanderbilt, Texas A&M, LSU, and Arkansas. 


Ole Miss will play host to the University of Louisiana-Lafayette, the University of Memphis, and Presbyterian University in non-conference games. 


n Alabama opens 2014 versus West Virginia in Atlanta: At Tuscaloosa, Ala., the University of Alabama will open the 2014 season in Atlanta against West Virginia University and play host to the University of Florida. 


The Aug. 30 opener will mark Alabama's second straight appearance in the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Game at the Georgia Dome, and fourth overall. 


Alabama will take on Virginia Tech University next Saturday. It beat Clemson University in 2008 and the Hokies the following season. 


Alabama and Florida, which will play Sept. 20, haven't met since a 38-10 Tide win in 2011. They also split back-to-back 1 versus 2 matchups in the SEC championship game in 2008 and 2009. 


n South Carolina-Texas A&M kick off SEC's 2014 schedule: At Birmingham, Ala., The University of South Carolina will play host to Texas A&M next year in the first conference football game to be televised on the SEC Network. 


The league released its full 2014 league schedule on Wednesday, which includes eight games for all 14 teams. The schedule uses a 6-1-1 format that includes six games against all division opponents, one permanent non-divisional opponent and one rotating non-divisional opponent. 


The SEC Network is scheduled to debut on Aug. 21, 2014 and will have one week on air to prepare for the South Carolina-Texas A&M showdown on Aug. 28. 


The SEC's leadership is reviewing the scheduling process and changes could be made by 2016. 


"The SEC Presidents and Chancellors have committed to a review of football scheduling to be completed in time for preparation of the 2016 schedule," SEC Commissioner Mike Slive said in the release. "The objective of this review is to develop a scheduling format for the 2016 season and beyond, which will be in the best interests of the conference." 


The Associated Press reports were included in this story. 




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