Bulldogs prepare to battle Auburn, recent history

By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal

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STARKVILLE – Mississippi State’s next game bears implications far beyond a simple win or loss.
With the Bulldogs set to host Auburn on Saturday (11 a.m., ESPN), an unpleasant statistic about Dan Mullen’s record resurfaces: He is 3-12 against SEC Western Division foes, with all three of those wins coming against Ole Miss.
For all the good he’s done at MSU – including a 22-17 record and back-to-back bowl wins – that’s a stat Mullen needs to change if he wants to keep moving the program forward and change the perception of where it fits into the SEC.
“I’ve never had that thought, and I mean, we’ve beaten Florida, Georgia, Michigan, and we’ve beaten a lot of teams so we’ve lost to a bunch of teams, too,” Mullen said at Monday’s press conference. “I really think about this season, and my goal every year is to win the SEC West.
“Well, to do that you really need to win your first conference game.”
MSU has lost 12 consecutive SEC openers.
The Bulldogs (1-0) have lost four in a row to Auburn (0-1), the last two losses coming by a 10 combined points.
Oh, so close
MSU had a chance to interrupt the Cam Newton-led unbeaten season in 2010 but fell 17-14; last year Chris Relf was stopped inches shy of the goal line on the last play of a 41-34 setback.
“Well, everybody knows that we’re close, we’ve just got to get over that hump,” offensive coordinator Les Koenning said. “It’s been really tough both times. Those kids come in heartbroken, and what we’re trying to do is put our players in position to make plays, and they see that.”
Bulldogs players have said that last season’s loss had a lingering effect. State ended up going 7-6 overall, 2-6 in SEC play.
Mullen told reporters on Sunday that the last two losses to Auburn could serve as extra motivation for his players. That is likely what will be on their minds rather than their overall record versus the West.
Whatever the context, winning its SEC opener would put MSU in a pleasantly unfamiliar position.
“Obviously what it does is if you win it, you’re No. 1 in the West,” defensive coordinator Chris Wilson said. “That’s the big stat. I don’t think who’s wearing the helmet really matters.”

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