Or as Josh Robinson said, “#1 feels great for our fans. But we play like #2.”
That is exactly the attitude Coach Dan Mullen has instilled into his team. A team which for the record is indeed #1 in both national polls. For, it can’t be stressed enough, the first time ever in 119 years of Bulldog football.
Ancient history isn’t much of a concern for this club of course. But that brings its own risks because the 2014 Bulldogs not only top the media and coach rankings, their ascension to #1 is the fastest in polling history. Mississippi State (7-0, 4-0 SEC) rocketed from ranks of the un-ranked to first place in just three games’ worth of wins. Now that status has held through three poll releases.
The obvious danger would the Bulldogs getting caught-up in their blitz to top dog in college football. Fortunately they seem so far to have avoided this mental trap. Even Robinson, the most ebullient of Bulldogs, provides a mature perspective.
“We don’t really take consideration being #1. We’re #1 but we grind like #2, you feel me?”
Mullen approves this attitude. Though, he said following a tighter-than-expected victory at Kentucky, the team did appear “a little tight” playing with that top number in front of their name for the first time. Not just their first time, the program’s first time it again needs noting. But, “These are young kids,” the coach qualified.
“Hopefully we can get all this ranking stuff behind us. I don’t know where we’ll rank, you can drop us if we want or raise, I don’t really care. It’s been neat, I think our kids are probably going to be over it as well. We’re 4-0 in the (SEC) West, and on to Arkansas.”
But before the Razorbacks arrive Saturday…there is the matter of tonight’s CFB show. Mullen could treat the topic lightly in Lexington when asked would he and team watch the rankings release. “What time does that come on? Central or Eastern? Probably not, we wrap up practice around (then). Whatever.”
“Trust me, it’s neat. I tell you what, talk radio Wednesday morning is going to be absolutely amazing! The blogs, and the fans, when you guys write that story and see the comments, I mean you’re going to have 5,000 comments below when you write that story Wednesday morning!”
Make that Tuesday evening. Releasing the rankings will free a flood of commentary, evaluation, agreement and disagreements alike from the paid professionals. Even more response will come from fans happy to see their teams listed in the first foursome, those furious theirs missed the initial grades, and probably everyone else in the gridiron universe for that matter.
The fun and fuss will be spectacular. And for Mississippi State, not mean much at all beyond temporary pride. That at least the mindset Mullen will have built into the Bulldogs to keep their attention turned towards Saturday’s 6:15 kickoff, and a fast-improving Razorback bunch ready to snap their league losing streak. No SEC squad enjoys playing spoiler. Yet Arkansas can send a shock through the standings by tripping-up the nation’s present number-one.
So, Mullen said. “For us, our focus is completely on Arkansas and trying to get one more win in the SEC. That’s the world and the reality we have to live in. I imagine if the rankings come out we’d be in the mix, and as long as you’re one of the four that’s all that would matter this week. That will be a great honor for us.”
Just not honorable enough to interrupt the Tuesday practice schedule this week. Though, Mullen did quip, “If the playoffs were next week, I definitely would watch!”
The Bulldogs had Monday off following a Sunday practice. Players will be available for interviews later this evening.