Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen joined the rest of the league’s head coaches on the SEC coaches’ teleconference to talk about the Bulldogs’ upcoming game against Arkansas.
Here is a transcript of Mullen’s time on the call…
Mullen: “We had a good day at practice yesterday and need to have another good day today. We’re coming off a road game against a good Kentucky team last week and found a way to get a win in a different way than we’ve won other games in the season.
“That gives our guys confidence as we continue to move forward. Guys step up and find ways to make plays to win games. Differnet guys have done it in different fashions. It’s been different guys making those plays.
“We have a huge challenge this week. Arkansas is an extremely physical and very, very talented football team. It should be a great game.”
How much louder is the stadium now that the end zone is inclosed and how much of a home field advantage does that create now?
Mullen: “I think it certainly helps. Obviously, you added a bunch more people into the stadium inclosing it off. It’s just a great feel for our players, a big-time atmosphere. Really our fans do a fabulous job of creating that big-time atmosphere for us.
“That’s really, really important to have that home field advantage. The SEC is different than any other conference because of the atmospheres that you go to in this league make it so hard to win on the road.”
Cowbells are unique. How big an advantage is that?
Mullen: “I don’t know that it’s an advantage but I know it’s a really neat tradition in college football like everybody has. Arkansas calls the pigs, Florida does the chomp and everybody has their traditions. The cowbell is our tradition.
“I think our fans do a fabulous job. I never hear them ringing during plays. Our fans cheer when they’re supposed to cheer and then they ring the cowbells when they’re supposed to ring the cowbells. It’s a pretty neat college tradition.”
What do you tell your players about playoff rankings?
Mullen: “They announced it when we came out of meetings. I don’t know how relevant it is. If we’re fortunate enough to continue to win, we’ll probably watch it at the end of the season whenever they do the last one.
“The rest of it right now is neat. It’s great for our university and fan base. The first poll ever released in the College Football Playoff and Mississippi State is No. 1. I think that’s pretty historic and a really neat deal for our fan base, alumni, students and university as a whole. I think that’s pretty special.
“But I don’t think it affects our football team in the big picture in any way, shape for form.”
Is that because you were around Urban Meyer all the time at Florida and are used to this?
Mullen: “I think it’s really cool and neat but it’s not going to help us beat Arkansas this Saturday. We kind of take it for what it’s worth. It’s really neat and I love it for our fan base and university.
“In terms of helping us beat Arkansas, I don’t think it helps us. It doesn’t hurt us but it doesn’t help us. I think it’s pretty irrelevant to the task at hand. For our guys, the most important aspect is finding a way to beat Arkansas on Saturday.”
Does it bother you to hear your name linked with other coaching jobs?
Mullen: “No, I kind of laugh it all off. I don’t really pay attention to a lot of that stuff. I don’t know that anyone in our program pays a whole lot of attention to that stuff.”
Arkansas has lost 16-straight SEC games but seem to be playing better. What do you make of where they are right now?
Mullen: “I think they’re an excellent football team on a national scale. The challenge in the SEC and especially the West right now is so challenging. There’s so many good teams. You’ve got to bring your A-game every single week if you want to have an opportunity to win.
“I look at Arkansas and their record might now show this at the time but to me they can play and beat any single team in this conference and do it pretty easily. They have talent. They play very aggressive defense and put a lot of speed on the field.
“They are big and physcial on offense. They have a great recipe for success. I think they’ve just got to get over that hump. Once they do you’ll see they can compete with anybody in this league every weekend.”
How is your team handling being No.1?
Mullen: “I think our guys now are kind of used to it all. I thought we played a little tight last week. I thought we played really well against Kentucky but we played kind of tight. We tried not to make mistakes and not with the energy and juice that we’ve played with for the rest of the year.
“That’s been our focus. Don’t worry about it. Just go out there and play every single play as hard as you can and have fun doing it with the energy and juice that we had earlier in the season. If we do that, we’ll be in a position to be successful.”
Do you think you’ll be as tight this week since you’ve already experienced a game at No. 1?
Mullen: “I hope so. It’s hard to project how we’ll act on game day but I think our leadership within the team really understands that now and can see how we reacted last week. I think everyone will handle it a whole lot better this week than we did last week.”