By Logan Lowery
STARKVILLE – When Dan Mullen arrived at Mississippi State six years ago, he spoke of changing the expectation level of its fan base.
At that time, the Bulldogs were a program that had been to just one bowl game in the previous eight seasons. Since, Mullen has guided MSU back into the postseason picture, making four straight bowl appearances in his five seasons – the first coach in school history to do so.
Mullen has also revitalized the fan base and has sold out 30 straight home games. Boosters opened their pocketbooks to build a $25 million football-only facility and will open a $75 million expansion at Davis Wade Stadium this season.
Postseason play is now expected by both the players and coaches. Now, the Bulldogs have their eyes fixated on a higher goal.
“The team doesn’t want to be good enough to just make it to a bowl game,” Mullen said. “They want to go compete for conference championships. That’s obviously the team we want to have. We’ve tried to build that here as a program.”
State received 74 votes in the Amway Coaches Preseason Poll, which would place 29th among the nation’s elite programs. The SEC media picked the Bulldogs to finish fifth in the Western Division this year and they received one vote to win the league outright.
But Mullen is quick to point out that no one has higher expectations for their program than what comes from within.
“I don’t think we concern ourselves with outside expectations, because I don’t how anybody could have any expectations when they haven’t been working out with us and seen the guys training during the summer and doing all the work they’ve put in,” Mullen said. “Our guys know what they put in what they expect of themselves. We embrace those expectations within our program. I’m proud they feel we have a championship-caliber team.”
Praise for Prescott
Much of the excitement surrounding the program stems from having junior quarterback Dak Prescott back.
Prescott won four games as a starter last season, one of which was his MVP performance in the Liberty Bowl. He led all SEC signalcallers with 13 rushing touchdowns and led the team with 1,940 passing yards and 829 yards on the ground.
But likely more important than Prescott’s dual-threat ability is his leadership both on and off the field and how the rest of the team seems to rally behind him.
“Everyone is going to have expectations, good or bad,” Prescott said. “We have our own expectations. That’s all we’re worried about is reaching and making sure everybody is reaching their individual expectations. Those will carry over into the team goals.”