Let’s be honest: Opening against a Jackson State or Memphis just doesn’t get the juices going. In fact, there’s been little to note about MSU’s non-conference schedule over the past few years.
When the Bulldogs take the field at Houston’s Reliant Stadium on Saturday, it’ll be the first time since 2003 they’ve opened the season against a BCS school from another conference. That year, State hosted Oregon and lost 42-34.
This weekend, the opponent is Oklahoma State, which is ranked No. 13 in the nation and picked by many to win the Big 12 title. The Cowboys boast one of the nation’s best offenses, having averaged 45.7 points per game last year.
It’s a tall challenge for MSU, which is a nearly two-touchdown underdog. I’m sure some fans would rather the Bulldogs play someone less imposing, but if you want to be a big-time program, you need to play big-time non-conference games – at least one a year, anyway.
Of course, let’s not forget that the only reason this game came about was because Mississippi Valley State had to be dropped off the schedule. MSU had a short time to find a replacement.
Still, the game is on the schedule now, and that’s a good thing. An even better thing for Dan Mullen’s team would be, obviously, to win the game. Perhaps I’m wrong, but I get the feeling the result of this opener could have a ripple effect upon the rest of MSU’s season.
A win would give this team, and this program, an immeasurable boost in confidence. And perhaps it would lead to a couple of more upsets later in the season, which could lead to double-digit wins and a really good bowl.
It would force outsiders to look differently at MSU.
A loss to Oklahoma State, however, would meet those outsiders’ expectations. How it would affect the rest of MSU’s season would be up to the players, who have vowed not to let one loss snowball into several, as happened at the end of last season.
But MSU faces a tough road, one that would be made even tougher by losing to the Cowboys. Getting six wins is no guarantee.
I’m not saying the whole season hinges on this one game. It is, after all, one game, and there are 11 more after it. But it carries a good bit of weight.
And it’ll be worth watching.
Brad Locke (brad.locke@ journalinc.com) covers Mississippi State for the Daily Journal and blogs daily at DJournal.com.