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SMITH COLUMN: Bulldogs desire to enjoy better football season

July 21, 2012

Smith

The main message Mississippi State's football contingent gave reporters at Southeastern Conference Media Days this week was it was disappointed with the way last season went and want to do something about it.

It wasn't bad for the Bulldogs last year. They finished with seven wins, including a victory over Wake Forest in the Music City Bowl.

For MSU coach Dan Mullen, defensive back Johnthan Banks, offensive lineman Gabe Jackson and quarterback Tyler Russell, they expected more.

Seven wins is a decent season, but the Bulldogs just weren't satisfied.

"Every year we have to set our expectations higher," Jackson said. "We have to get better and win more. I feel like (last season) was a disappointment, but we are going to come back from it."

Although most questions were directed to coaches and players on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, reporters like myself took a few and with the most specific being, "how will Mississippi State's season be this year."

Banks won't be happy unless the Bulldogs win 10 games and have a chance to compete for the Southeastern Conference Championship. Those were the goals he gave on Wednesday in Hoover, Ala.

Even though those expectations may seem to be a big lofty, Banks has those hopes because of the way MSU has gone through the offseason.

"We have better leadership roles," the former East Webster High School player said. "Myself, I have taken the defense, I have made us work harder. We have guys who have bought into the program. We have guys who are going to go out there and play harder and faster."

Since Mullen became the coach of the Bulldogs, he has listed reaching Atlanta and the SEC Championship Game as being the ultimate goal. The thinking there is that if MSU is good enough to play for an SEC title, then it can be in a position to compete for the national crown.

The media still doesn't think the Bulldogs are close to that point yet.

In the All-SEC voting released Thursday, MSU was picked to finish sixth out of the seven teams in the Western Division. The Bulldogs are listed behind LSU, Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn and newcomer Texas A&M and ahead of rival Ole Miss.

I was a little more generous toward MSU in the poll turned in earlier this week as my ballot had it placed fifth in front of Auburn and Ole Miss.

It's not surprising that the Bulldogs don't care about the preseason projection. It's MSU's plan to get the most out of this season as possible.

"We really don't worry about what people say, looking into our offense or our team," Russell said. "We want to be the best every year – we want to get to Atlanta, Ga., and win a Southeastern Conference Championship. That is a main goal.

"We have won a couple of bowl games and you ask a lot of our players on our team if that is a successful year and they would tell you no, just because we hold high expectations for ourselves."

After the Bulldogs open the season against Jackson State on Sept. 1, they host the Auburn Tigers on Sept. 8 in what proves to be a key early outing in terms of SEC positioning.

At least we will know at that point whether my thoughts on MSU being better than Auburn will be accurate.

Danny P. Smith is sports editor and columnist for the Starkville Daily News. The opinions in this column are his and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Daily News or its staff.

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