Mullen Making Bulldog Bowl Debut In Gator

The first bowl game Mississippi State participated in had a Florida address. Now, the first bowl that Mississippi State's current coach will take a team to is also in the Sunshine State. Because Dan Mullen and the Bulldogs are bound for the 2011 Gator Bowl.

Mississippi State has been selected as the Southeastern Conference representative to the New Years Day game in Jacksonville. The 8-4 Bulldogs will be taking on 7-5 Michigan of the Big Ten Conference, in a first-ever meeting of the programs. Kickoff is 1:30 ET with telecast by ESPN2 from Jacksonville's EverBank Field.

Mullen was to speak with media via teleconference this evening. This story will be updated afterwards.

While this will be a first Bulldog team venture into Jacksonville, Mullen knows the site well from his four-year stint with Florida. From 2005-08 his Gator teams won three of four games played at what is now EverBank Field. Michigan has appeared in the Gator Bowl before but not since 1990 when they defeated Ole Miss 35-3.

Seating capacity for the Gator Bowl is listed at 77,000. Whatever crowd follows the Wolverines south for a winter holiday, there will be no lack of maroon in the house based on advance ticket demand shown by Bulldog fans.

In the pre-order process which began the last week of October, as soon as the Bulldogs had achieved bowl eligibility, Bulldog Club members and/or season ticket holders placed requests for over 17,000 tickets to the Gator Bowl. While not close to the 23,000 orders filed for Atlanta, this will still more than exceed any allotment MSU expects to receive as SEC representative. As reported Friday, the University will need something in the range of 2,500 tickets to take care of school and athletic administration, player-family tickets, and other guest purposes. And that does not include how many tickets State chooses to make available for student purchase, likely through a lottery process.

Not only is this State's first meeting with the Wolverines, it is only the fourth Big Ten team ever faced by a Bulldog squad. The most recent was Illinois back in the 1980 season when MSU won 28-21 on the road. State has played three times in the state of Michigan, all against Michigan State and all from 1928-47.

This will be one of three SEC vs. Big Ten matchups on New Years Day, all in the state of Florida and all kicking off in the 1:00-1:30 timeslot. A Bulldog team last went bowling in the Sunshine State back in 1941 when Allyn McKeen's club beat Georgetown in the Orange Bowl. This will be MSU's fifth New Years Day game date, the most recent being the 1999 Cotton Bowl.

Sunday's announcement by the Gator Bowl Association ended an unexpectedly tense waiting period for MSU officials and fans alike. And, added a surprise ending to the bowl-booking process. As soon as the Bulldogs capped their regular season with a 31-23 victory at Ole Miss, expectations were State would go bowling for the fourth time in Atlanta, at the Chick-fil-A Bowl. By yesterday though much about the SEC's bowl situation was suddenly in flux, save only for the certainty Auburn would play in the B.C.S. Championship game after routing South Carolina.

While that game played out though representatives, or at least sources speaking for them, of both SEC schools and some bowls were predicting a dizzying variety of destinations for eight-win State and the four league teams with seven or six wins. And as late as early Sunday afternoon some Florida players were messaging friends that the Gators were going to the bowl of the same name.

When all shook out though State had avoided ‘falling' as far down the pecking order as some had projected; instead six-win Tennessee will play in their home state at the Music City Bowl. South Carolina will return to Atlanta for the Chick-fil-A, which is in the same ‘tier' as the Gator but the earlier selection.

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