It marks the 16-win, once-beaten Bulldogs highest ranking since breaking into the top 10 last year at No. 8, following victories over top 25 teams Xavier and Oklahoma.
In Tennessee (10-5, 2-3 SEC), the Dogs catch another formidable league opponent in the midweek skirmish at Humphrey Coliseum. The "Men in Orange" nearly snapped No. 4 Louisville's 15-game win streak Sunday in Knoxville, Tenn., before dropping a narrow, 65-62, decision.
Tennessee was led by Brandon Crump's 16 points followed by C.J. Watson with 15. Jemere Hendrix grabbed a career-high 12 rebounds. Scooter McFagdon, the Vols' leading scorer, was held to 10 points on a cold-shooting night.
Mississippi State senior co-captain Timmy Bowers said there's no rest when it comes to the SEC lineup.
"There's definitely no easy games in this league," emphasized Bowers, who nearly had a double-double with 15 points and nine assists in MSU's last outing, an impressive 71-58 win Saturday over Georgia at the Hump.
"The SEC didn't do us a favor by giving us this tough schedule early in the season. But, as of right now, I think we have handled it fine ... I believe we're 5-1 with a very good Tennessee team coming to our place. We should be in pretty good shape, but you never know.
"But we feel pretty good at this point," said Bowers. "We'll be back at The Hump. Everybody should be fired up. The students are going to be here."
Another huge crowd is anticipated for the Tennessee game as the defending Western Division champions bid to maintain their early-season lead in the SEC.
"The crowd means a lot," acknowledged Bowers, long a favorite among the Maroon and White. "The fans help a lot. It means so much to have the stands full and cheering. The fans always help. They do a tremendous job when they're whooping and hollering. It helps set the tone for us. We appreciate the fans."
A former "Mississippi Player of The Year," Bowers said the Bulldogs need to be ready to play in the SEC duel.
"We just have to come out ready to play with the same kind of intensity as we had today (against Georgia).
No doubt, Mississippi State came out focused and ready from the opening tip, racing to an improbable 19-0 lead.
A crowd of 9,678, joined by Jefferson Pilot Sports regional television audience, turned out for the noon start. Although the game was a sellout, there were a few no-shows due to the wet, dreary day outside. However, inside, the atmosphere was "Bulldog flavored" in a very distinct Mississippi State style.
Mississippi State (16-1, 5-1 SEC) stayed atop the overall league standings with the "double-digit" victory, their second straight twin-figure winning margin. MSU is off to its best start in league play since beginning the 1993-94 conference season 5-0.
Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury said anytime you can get a win, you are happy.
"I was pleased to get a "W" against a good Georgia team. I was wondering how our team would come out and play after two emotional games on the road," said Stansbury in reference to the Dogs previous two games, both wins, at Baton Rouge, La., and Gainesville, Fla.
Georgia coach Dennis Felton, who has twice knocked off top 10 teams this season in Georgia Tech and Kentucky, was very complimentary of Mississippi State.
"We've played some pretty good teams and they (Mississippi State) are clearly the most talented team we have played," added Felton.
Mississippi State placed four players in double figures paced by Lawrence Roberts with 17 points. Roberts, who is in the SEC's top six in scoring (16.5 ppg), rebounding (10.4 rpg) and field goal percentage (57.3 percent), has been named to the Wooden Award midseason Top 30 list of candidates.
Senior 6-8 forward Branden Vincent, who like his coach says "does the little things with the best of 'em," had a game-high 10 rebounds, three blocks and two steals. Freshman point guard Gary Ervin had four assists and a key layup.
Mississippi State goes on the road Saturday to close out the month of January on the Auburn Plains.
Don Foster, a veteran newspaper writer who is the Sports Editor for the Starkville Daily News, writes a weekly article for Gene's Page. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org