“I’m gonna go watch the game now,” Dak Prescott said.
Admitted defensive end Ryan Brown, “I was calling my LSU friends about it last night.”
The Game, as of this writing and those quotes, is nowhere close to over, but it’s all anyone in Starkville is thinking about. The object of attention is LSU and Alabama.
Specifically, for those Starkvillians, it’s ‘Bama. The Tide, the White [and Crimson] Elephant, the last SEC West team Dan Mullen hasn’t taken down since arriving at Mississippi State.
It doesn’t even matter what happens in Louisiana. I mean, it does. It matters a great deal. But not really. Tuscaloosa is the last stop on the Mississippi State Revenge Tour. They’re the last team to beat for the unwanted, once-scorned three-star, two-star and no-star Bulldogs. Sure, there are more games after this weekend, both of them conference tilts. The Egg Bowl is the biggest game of the year every November, in at least one way or another.
But for the first time in a while, perhaps since MSU beat Auburn nearly one month ago, no one is looking ahead. If we’re being honest, State probably hasn’t been as singularly focused as it should be since taking down the then-No. 2 team in the country (and thereby rising to No. 1 themselves) at the beginning of October. And if we’re really being honest, it’s showed.
MSU hasn’t been bad. But they haven’t exactly been great, either, as they’ve moved through these last three games, beating Kentucky, Arkansas and UT Martin in succession.
MSU has been standing on the shore of redemption, knee-deep and feeling The Tide pull toward Tuscaloosa. The Bulldogs are already in the driver’s seat for the West. Win this, and they’ve got every seat on the bus.
“This is the reason I came here,” Brown said. “I have jitters even thinking about it.”
Those comments came minutes after MSU’s Homecoming win Saturday night. But that’s not at all what he was talking about. He’s got Alabama on his mind. Just like everyone else in the locker room.
“You know in the back of their mind what they’re thinking,” he said of his team’s mentality in preparation for UT Martin, “and they’re thinking about next week’s game.”
How could they not be?
“They’re gonna be hyped for that game,” Mullen continued. “This is what you play for. You’re going to be in the middle of November competing for first place in the SEC West … That’s what you come here for, that’s what we want our program to be like.”
What’s funny, some MSU players have noticed, is that people around the country have already picked them to lose that game. Before Alabama even played LSU. Before they could even get home from Homecoming and watch next week’s opponent in this week’s game.
ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit, in picking Alabama to beat LSU, went ahead and said they wouldn’t lose another game this season. Despite the fact they’ve got the No. 1 team coming to their place next Saturday.
“It really doesn’t bother us,” State receiver Fred Brown said. “We know we can come in as the underdog even if we’re the No. 1 team.”
As a short-lived professor once said, “Fame is a fickle friend.”
It’s too early, just now, to try and preview next week’s game. While others didn’t quite have the patience, we ought, at least, to wait until both teams have finished their games this week.
But finally for MSU, the top-ranked Bulldogs don’t have to be concerned about looking too far ahead. Now, they’re just looking. And planning. And doing so with a confidence no one has expected or thought them worthy to have since this so-far magical season began.
“Now it’s time to look forward and focus on next week. Playing big-time games in November means you’re playing for championships,” Prescott said. “That’s all my focus now, on Alabama and being prepared to beat them … I don’t think it’s ‘We Believe.’ Rather, we know we can.”
But the rest of us, those of us not on the field, have to ask the question all of MSU’s uniformed players believe to be unnecessary.
Is this Mississippi State team different than those before it, is it the one to break the chain, is it the group to stand up to The Tide and seize hold of the prize it so greatly desires and believes it deserves?
“I guess we’ll find out next Saturday, won’t we,” Mullen said.
Yes we will. One week.