In two-plus seasons as Mississippi State's head coach, he's 2-11 against SEC Western Division opponents, and those two wins have come against Ole Miss. The Rebels have lost 12 consecutive SEC games and have a lame-duck coach in Houston Nutt.
Getting the Bulldogs to the next level involves breaking through against teams in their own division. But Mullen doesn't believe just one win can accomplish that.
"Whatever the record is, if we win this week, then it's one more win and still some other losses," Mullen said Monday. "Right now we have three teams in the top six in the country in the West. It's a very challenging, very difficult division."
MSU takes on No. 6 Arkansas this weekend in Little Rock after losing to Alabama, which is now ranked fourth in the latest AP poll. State has also lost to current No. 1 LSU.
Until the Bulldogs actually beat West power, however, there will be that psychological hurdle for the players.
"Psychologically to beat a top 10 team, that always helps," Mullen said. "That helps on Saturday night. On Sunday morning, you turn on another film and you have to get back to work for the next game."
He pointed to last year's big win to back that statement. MSU beat Florida in Gainesville, then struggled the next week against UAB, pulling out a 29-24 win.
After facing Arkansas on Saturday, it's the Egg Bowl against Ole Miss.
"It's a great feeling, it's great for that night, but in the big picture of things, I think it will help psychologically that we're bowl eligible," said Mullen. "And they know we get more practice and get to go to a bowl. I think that's fantastic."
State has played its division opponents tough. It held LSU to its second-lowest point total of the season in a 19-6 loss, and the Bulldogs trailed Alabama 7-0 at halftime after a couple of missed chances to tie it.
"The key for us," said defensive coordinator Chris Wilson, "is to play at a level and execute at a level enough where you win the game. That's what we chase every weekend."