For only the second time ever, Davis Wade Stadium will be home to a game featuring two Top-15 teams. On Saturday, No. 6 Texas A&M arrives in Starkville to face No. 12 Mississippi State and the attention from those in the world of athletics will match the historic nature of the event, a notable day in Starkville, the state of Mississippi and the SEC Western Division, as six of the seven divisional heavyweights play each other while all are ranked in the Top 15.
The result? MSU has become one of the ‘It’ teams of college football, a riser seemingly everyone wants to get the story on. The Bulldogs went from unranked all the way to 14th in the country after beating LSU and moved up another two spots just by twiddling their thumbs during an off week the following the Saturday.
Just this week, State will have coaches and players on ESPN Radio, ESPN.com, SEC Network, SEC Nation, College Gameday and a wealth of appearances on regular ol’ ESPN the channel.
Sports Illustrated is staying in town the entire week. Pat Forde of Yahoo! Sports gets here Tuesday. Dan Mullen is hopping on the Jim Rome Show and NFL Network on Wednesday, Sirius/XM Thursday morning, CBS Sports radio with Doug Gottlieb later that day and SportsCenter on Friday.
Dak Prescott has bookend interviews this week with College Gameday Tuesday and Tim Tebow Friday in the stadium, the connection of two Mullen quarterbacks, with an unending list of appearances in between.
SportsCenter is setting up outside the same stadium on Friday morning, ESPN is running all-access with Mississippi State across its family of networks for the entirety of Thursday.
By Saturday, beyond those already mentioned, USA Today, the Associated Press and even the Washington Post will have made it to Starkville.
And all that is without mentioning coverage and interviews by the local media, who visit with coaches and players on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.
Oh, and what of the “off” week when Prescott was named winner of five national awards? The junior quarterback by himself accounted for appearances on SportsCenter, Scott Van Pelt, Championship Drive with Rece Davis, SEC Now and SEC Nation.
“Dak is the leading man for a team that has captured national imagination,” Pat Forde wrote early last week.
“Dak Prescott just announced to the world that he is a Heisman candidate,” Tim Brando said on FOX Sports. “He torched LSU.”
All told, Mullen and Prescott will have combined for over 40 appearances and interviews between the final whistle of their win over LSU and kickoff against Texas A&M.
“I might not get to sit down and eat as long or as much I want to,” Prescott joked. “But it’s alright.”
As wild as the hype and attention has been, it will only increase if MSU remains successful. Win this weekend, and State likely hosts its first-ever Top-10 matchup in Davis Wade when Auburn comes to town.
Even if they lose, another strong performance by Prescott can keep those in the media dropping that H-word after seeing him play. Junior running back Josh Robinson, after rushing for 197 yards against LSU, is putting his name in the conversation of the nation’s best runners and sophomore receiver De’Runnya Wilson is quickly becoming one of the SEC’s breakout pass-catchers.
Not to mention those who have already earned some share of stardom on defense like junior linebacker Benardrick McKinney and sophomore defensive lineman Chris Jones.
Bill Martin is the director of media relations for MSU, the man charged with coordinating and facilitating all these interviews, and said the volume of requests he’s getting now is even greater than when he was at LSU with Heisman finalist Tyrann Mathieu, the ‘Honey Badger.’
Kyle Niblett is Martin’s No. 2 man in football and said he hasn’t seen anything like this since he was at Florida with, of course, Tim Tebow.
Scott Stricklin, MSU’s Athletic Director, has never seen attention like this in Starkville, period.
Appropriately enough, while all the attention on the outside has been focused on MSU, all the attention on the inside at State has been focused on Texas A&M. They are a good team, after all.
But, in between practices, film sessions and coaches meetings, Mullen is able to take a moment to appreciate the big picture.
“Everyone around the country gets to see what Starkville, Mississippi is all about,” he said with a smile on Monday.