Mississippi State Looks to Win Respect

Three weeks into the 2014 college football season and the members of the Southeastern Conference are once again the talk of the country. Despite a resume worthy of consideration, the Mississippi State Bulldogs find themselves on the outside looking in at the top 25 in both the AP and Coaches Polls, while several of their SEC peers are safely ranked in that prestigious number.

There were six teams from the SEC Western Division who played in bowl games following last season's play.

Five of those six are currently ranked in the AP top 25 poll.

The lone exception? Mississippi State.

The Bulldogs won the Liberty Bowl 44-7 over Conference-USA Champion Rice.

Eighteen players who started that game for Mississippi State returned to their starting roles this season.

Despite having the least amount of roster turnover within the division, the Bulldogs were not fresh in the minds of AP voters in the pre-season.

There are currently six 3-0 teams in the SEC Western division.

Five of those six are currently ranked in the AP top 25 poll.

The lone exception? Once again, Mississippi State.

One of only four teams within the division to earn a bowl bid in four straight years, Dan Mullen's team currently holds a six-game winning streak dating back to last season.

The Bulldogs knocked off Arkansas on the road for the first time in school history and then defeated rival Ole Miss for the fourth time in five tries under Mullen before dominating Rice in the 2013 season finale.

With wins over Southern Miss, UAB and South Alabama to begin the 2014 campaign, the Bulldogs are streaking into conference play as a team with both confidence and experience.

The six-game run is tied for the longest in the SEC West with LSU who hosts the Bulldogs this weekend in the SEC opener for both teams.

LSU opened as a seven-point favorite, but that point spread quickly went to double digits.

The Maroon and White brand of Bulldogs appear to be having a tough time earning respect from the opinion-makers in the world of college football.

"We're predicted to lose every game," said safety Jay Hughes with a grin. "It's nothing new to us. We knew it was going to be that way, but we know who we are, we know what we can do and we know what we expect."

Critics are quick to point to Coach Dan Mullen's record against the top 25 and his team's 0-10 record against SEC heavyweights Alabama and LSU.

Past results certainly favor the Tigers who have won every meeting against Mississippi State since 1999 and won every contest held in Baton Rouge since 1991.

It is tough to get ahead in the Bulldog's division, but a win Saturday night would likely turn some heads toward the happenings in Starkville.

"It's like Coach (Mullen) says," shared sophomore linebacker Beniquez Brown. "They are not going to just give you respect. You have to go out and earn it. That's why we practice hard and that's why we study film.

"We want to be one of those teams that everybody is talking about, but we know that they aren't going to talk about us until we win those big games."

Mississippi State enters this weekend's road tilt with LSU healthy and hungry for a victory in one of "those big games", but it does not appear that the Bulldogs are working the campaign trail to win any popularity contests.

"We're going to go out and work hard to be physically and mentally prepared to showcase the things we do, whether people respect us or not," said senior defensive tackle Kaleb Eulls.

"I don't really worry about all of that stuff. I just know what we have to do to go do our best on the field."

While fans and pundits spend a lot of time talking about rankings, polls and things of that sort, the players actually responsible for making plays are more concerned about the things that they can control rather than matters of opinion.

"I am not really into the media and the hype and all of that," said cornerback Taveze Calhoun. "Our goal is to go out and get a win every time we play.

"We just want to go out and do our best every time and do all we can to get a win.

"Respect and all of the rest of it will come if we just do the things we need to do to win."


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