Those projections, made by vote of the press corps, are for Mississippi State to bring up the rear of the Western Division. The voting came two days after Dan Mullen and Bulldog players had left the scene, so there’s been no recorded response.
At the end of his post-practice talk, Mullen gave one.
“I don’t know. Nobody asked me my opinion, so I didn’t get a vote!” he said. “We have our own (MSU) coaches’ vote that we did within our staff and I don’t think we were picked to finish last!”
But even in the (SEC) coaches vote you were picked sixth? “So we weren’t last! I don’t know. It’s the same thing like preseason awards. None of that really means that much to me. Because what is going to determine it, there’s so much. I guarantee you history of the program over the last 100-some years has something to do with where we get picked. People look at just pure numbers of returning starters. Where, Will Redmond is not a returning starter yet we just said he’s a post-season candidate, nominee. Chris Jones, not a returning starter. So we have those guys.”
“All those things, I don’t know what weighs in to everybody’s idea. But in the end it’s going to come down to who comes together as a team; who finds a way to win the close games; and has the mental toughness and physical toughness to do that. And injuries, and who can probably stay healthy the best at key positions. You have your guy, you have some guys you’re really going to depend on. If you can keep them healthy you’re going to have a chance to be successful.”
“I’ve said I don’t think there’s any team in the West that doesn’t think they can win it. I know every school in the country right now has the coach-talk. And the players say we feel great about things, we’re going to find a way to win. I bet if you took a poll in the Big Ten, do they think anybody could win the championship in that league? Probably they’re not going to say that. Where you look at the SEC West, you probably could make an argument of how every team could win. Especially I guess if we had a fifth-year senior quarterback coming back, who is a pretty good football player.”
Do you think the players use that as motivation or do they not care? “Maybe not as much as some schools probably would. Dak’s quote at Media Days, “I looked down and they picked us last last year” or something. Which was good, it didn’t turn out that way!”
“I guess we could use it as a rallying cry, if we thought that we were usually picked first and this year they picked us last. But usually they pick us near the bottom. I’d say be picked first or last, right? Because if you’re picked first you have real motivation to stay there. If you’re picked last you’ve got motivation to prove everybody wrong. If you’re like fourth? Well, you know, you’re kind of like well they didn’t pick us last! I don’t know, it is what it is.”
“I will say this. I won’t be mean and taunt everybody if we do finish first. I won’t throw it in their face!”