Dan Mullen knows just where Larry Porter is standing right now.
A year ago, Mullen was facing the tall order of making Mississippi State football respectable again. After a 5-7 season against arguably the nation’s toughest schedule, the Bulldogs can no longer be considered pushovers.
On Saturday, they face a Memphis team with the same goal in mind. Porter, a former Memphis tailback, is the new coach tasked with making the Tigers viable again.
After three consecutive winning seasons under Tommy West (2003-05), Memphis has had just one in the last four years, including a 2-10 mark last season.
Porter said he doesn’t dwell on past records. “All my focus has been on improving the team and looking forward.”
Porter and the Tigers seem excited about the rebuilding project, and the coach is hoping this opening road trip will tell him a lot about his new team.
“One, I would like for us to continue to play together as a team,” Porter said. “Two, I’d like for us to kind of let the birth of our identity come to life. And three, this is a team that has a fighting spirit and a willing heart, and I’m looking forward to seeing them display that on Sept. 4.”
Mullen’s tenure began with a 45-7 win over Jackson State.
“I know how important that first game is for you and how much they’re gonna put into this first game, what a big game it is for them,” Mullen said of Memphis.
n MSU has a short turnaround for its next game, a Thursday nighter against Auburn. Mullen said he’s not letting that affect this week’s preparation.
“Fortunately, I’ve been involved in those games in the past,” he said, “and we have a schedule and a plan that we’ve used, and it’s (been) very successful in the past, to prepare for a Thursday night game. It really doesn’t change anything about this week.
“The change only occurs really starting Sunday morning.”
The same goes for Auburn coach Gene Chizik, whose Tigers open with Arkansas State on Saturday.
“Knowing that we have a short turnaround, we’re prepared for that,” Chizik said, “but we’re focusing on one team.”
– Most ways you look at it, MSU’s schedule is one of the toughest in the country. Football guru Phil Steele rates it the fourth-toughest in the country, while the Wall Street Journal rated the Bulldogs’ strength of schedule 22nd in the country.
RealTimeRPI.com, however, gives MSU’s strength of schedule a No. 58 ranking.
Contact Brad Locke at 678-1571 or email@example.com.
Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal