By LEE ADAMS
With No. 3 Alabama rolling into town this Saturday, Mississippi State has another big challenge ahead of them on its home field.
Earlier this season, the Bulldogs hosted the then-No. 3 and now-No. 1 LSU Tigers and No. 13 South Carolina, so playing against highly-ranked teams is nothing new to the Bulldogs. In fact, MSU head coach Dan Mullen sees it as a benefit.
"I think the benefit we've had is we've played a bunch of top-10 teams," said Mullen. "Most teams get one big game a year and our guys get six games against top-20 teams, so we are used to playing against high-profile, talented teams and we've been close (to winning). We just have to take that next step and find a way to finish it off."
It will be tough to finish off the Crimson Tide, but the Bulldogs are excited about the opportunity to do so.
"Our guys and our coaches are looking forward to this game," said Mullen. "This is why you love being in the Southeastern Conference, to play these big games against, as I view it, the No. 2 team in the country."
Alabama, who dropped an overtime thriller to LSU last Saturday, dropped from second in the nation to third in the BCS poll.
"I think just to be politically correct people put them down to No. 3 in the BCS," said Mullen. "In reality, through 60 minutes, they were even with the best team in the country, and we will have our hands full."
After Alabama's loss on Saturday, the media began to ask the question "if Alabama wins out, do they deserve to be in the BCS national title game," and Mullen answered that question on Monday.
"Absolutely," said Mullen. "Whether it's deserving or it's the two best teams, I don't know because maybe there is a team that hasn't lost that you can say well maybe they deserve a shot at it. In reality, in the SEC, we play six top-20 teams in conference games and other conferences may have one or two teams in the top 20. I think when you evaluate that aspect of it, if LSU and Alabama win out, I assume they are still the best two teams in the country."
Clearly Mullen doesn't want them to win out as he is wanting to hand the Crimson Tide their second consecutive loss this weekend.
With the Bulldogs wanting to pull the upset win over Alabama, they will have a national audience as ESPN will be broadcasting the game in prime time at 6:45 p.m. Also, the following week, MSU will be in another nationally-televised game when they travel to Little Rock to take on Arkansas with CBS broadcasting the game at 2:30 p.m.
Both games are against teams ranked in the top ten, so State will have their hands full for two weeks, but right now they are focused on the Tide. However, while Mullen is preparing for his teams showdown with the powerful Tide, another coach in the state is preparing for his final games as head coach at his school. Ole Miss announced on Monday that Houston Nutt would be let go after this season's Egg Bowl, and even though Mullen and Nutt have coached against each other as rivals for three seasons now, Mullen feels for what his fellow SEC coach is going through.
"A lot of times people get caught up in what it is and sometimes it's just a game," said Mullen. "Other times it's more than a game to people in the coaching profession. This is hard on our family's lives. I commit so much time away from my family and it's not something we take very lightly. Any time you see a coach potentially lose a job, it's a sad day."