By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
STARKVILLE – A second season of sorts begins for Mississippi State this weekend.
After an off week, the No. 20 Bulldogs (4-0, 1-0 SEC) dive back into conference play with a trip to Kentucky (1-4, 0-2) on Saturday. The first four games of MSU’s season featured just one SEC game, a 28-10 win over Auburn.
Seven of the next eight are against league foes.
“You don’t want to call the first four games preseason, but it is different because it’s so much conference-oriented now,” coach Dan Mullen said at Monday’s press conference. “When you come in, your goals are to find a way to win your side of the conference and play for a conference championship game.
“These are all the games that really matter, starting now, for us.”
In recent history, MSU has been so-so in games played after an off week. In three seasons under Mullen, the Bulldogs are 5-6 in all games that come after a week off, including 4-6 in SEC play.
But this time is different.
A different bye
This was MSU’s earliest off week since 2003, so the whole setup is different from what the Bulldogs are used to. The toughest part of the schedule is yet to be played, and so a pertinent question is just how helpful the break will be.
Mullen pointed out that if you include preseason camp, which began the first week of August, MSU’s bye week fell “dead center” on that calendar. So he likes the timing.
“I guess everybody is probably fresher than normal at this point in the season with the bye week,” he said. “Week 7 or Week 8, when we usually have the bye week, we’ll be a little more tired in not getting that rest at that point.”
Tailback LaDarius Perkins doesn’t foresee any such physical challenges, or mental ones either, during this eight-week stretch.
“I don’t think it does, because we came into the season knowing that these first four games, we should be able to win, and we knew we were going to have to keep improving as the season goes on after the bye week,” Perkins said. “We make sure we just can’t get complacent or things like that and just keep going out there and working hard and grinding.”