STARKVILLE – Mississippi State has embraced facing its in-state brethren in non-conference action since Dan Mullen arrived in 2009.
The Bulldogs have defeated Jackson State and Alcorn State twice under Mullen and even had a contest scheduled last season with Mississippi Valley State, which later had to be cancelled due to the Delta Devils not meeting financial aid guidelines.
But Saturday’s season-opener against Southern Miss will raise the stakes for MSU. The two teams have not met since 1990, when the Bulldogs pulled out a 13-10 victory in Starkville following a 41-yard field goal by Joel Logan with 3:01 remaining.
“Our guys know how important the in-state rivalries are,” Mullen said. “They know how big they are for bragging rights with their families, hometowns, high schools and the fans. That’s what makes it fun and why I’m glad we’re playing this game. It’s neat for me to be a part of this rivalry that hasn’t happened for 24 years.”
Although the Bulldogs have won two straight against the Golden Eagles, Southern Miss owns the all-time series 14-12-1 after State had to forfeit victories in 1975 and 1976.
Mullen is 8-1 against Magnolia State opponents, including his 4-1 record against Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl.
But Mullen made it clear that no matter how heated things get between the Bulldogs and USM the next two seasons, nothing would take precedence over the annual end-of-the-year clash with the Rebels.
“It’s not going to be the same,” Mullen said. “There is no game that is going to be the same as that for us, ever. The champion-ship game is probably not going to have the same emphasis as that. I mean, that’s something that is just different.”
MSU will make a return trip to Hattiesburg next season.