The season opener has been set for November 19 as State hosts Tennessee-Chattanooga at The Hump on a Saturday when the football Bulldogs are playing in Little Rock, Ark. Before the debut there will exhibitions on the two preceeding Saturdays, against West Georgia on the 5th and West Florida on the 12th. The first exhibition coincides with the home football game against Alabama, and the second falls on a football open date.
It also looks like a busy Thanksgiving weekend Saturday in Starkville, as on the same day as the ‘Battle for the Golden Egg' at Scott Field there is a home hoops game with Northwestern Louisiana. No game times are reported for any dates on the tentative schedule, though fans understand that basketball games coinciding with football contests have tip-off set once the grid game kickoff is decided.
The Bulldogs will only have to leave home twice this semester, but it will be for four games. One is a November 23 date at Charlotte; the others are in the San Juan Shootout scheduled for December 17-22. In return for visiting Puerto Rico just before the Christmas break State is guaranteed three games as part of the eight-team, split-bracket tournament. SEC member State headlines one half of the field while Clemson of the ACC leads the other bracket.
Playing in the Caribbean offers more than a chance to work on a winter tan. This sort of tournament lets State play two more regular-season games than the normal limit on NCAA schedules. And every extra game is priceless in getting this new Bulldog team ready for a SEC season.
This is the third time in four seasons that State will have moved a home game to Jackson, to play in the state's largest metro and media market as well as the heart of Mississippi prep recruiting territory. The opponent is the same as last year with Jacksonville State agreeing to a rematch in the Mississippi Coliseum. Stansbury likes playing at least one December date off-campus after school closes and the student fan base departs for holiday break.
Also, this December brings a return date with Santa Clara, who the Bulldogs visited in 2003 and brought back an overtime victory. The home-and-home series was to finish last December, but State got a late invitation to play in the Wooden Classic with Arizona and Santa Clara agreed to delay the return to 2005.
This year's SEC schedule does not begin until January 7 for State, but at least it is at home with Arkansas visiting Humphrey Coliseum. But the downside is the Bulldogs immediately hit the league road for games at Florida and Mississippi. Also, according to this tentative slate, the Arkansas game is the only Saturday date in January for the hoops Dogs to play and the football staff to host recruits. Reportedly the MSU administration urged the SEC for the last month to adjust the January league scheduling so State could have at least one game weekend when official football visitors were on campus, but MSU was turned down as national TV could not be changed.
Outside uncertainty about what sort of team this might be is reflected in a limited TV schedule. Only three of State's SEC games have been booked for broadcast, and just one of them is a national telecast. That is January 21 at Vanderbilt. Jefferson-Pilot will show the home game with Kentucky (February 1) and road game at Arkansas a month later. None of the non-league games have been picked for broadcast so far.
The tentative non-conference schedule for this season shows: Tennessee-Chattanooga Nov. 19, Arkansas State Nov. 21, at Charlotte Nov. 23, Northwestern Louisiana Nov. 26, Southeastern Louisiana Nov. 28, New Orleans Nov. 30, Santa Clara Dec. 3, Troy State Dec. 10, Jacksonville State in Jackson, Miss. Dec. 15, at the San Juan Shootout Dec. 17-22, George Mason Dec. 30.
The SEC schedule is much more firm, as it is set annually by the league office. According to the tentative MSU slate and the schedules announced by most conference members already, the lineup looks like: Arkansas Jan. 7, at Florida Jan. 11, at Mississippi Jan. 14, LSU Jan. 18, at Vanderbilt Jan. 21, Tennessee Jan. 25, at Alabama Jan. 28, Kentucky Feb. 1, Auburn Feb. 4, at South Carolina Feb. 11, at LSU Feb. 15, Mississippi Feb. 18, at Auburn Feb. 22, Georgia Feb. 25, at Arkansas Mar. 1, Alabama Mar. 4.
The 2006 SEC Tournament is on March 9-12 and will be played in Nashville's Gaylord Center. It will return to Atlanta in 2007.
This reported schedule is not official but should be close enough to the slate Mississippi State is expected to announce shortly. Last year's schedule was not announced until the end of September, which still provided adequate time to print and mail ticket order forms.
Stansbury has as complete a rebuilding job as any in the nation going into this season, with the entire starting lineup from the NCAA Tournament departed. In fact only three players who took a tipoff in 2004-05 are still on the roster and they started only seven combined games.