By CARL SMITH
For the second straight year, head coach Dan Mullen and the Mississippi State Bulldogs will play in a postseason bowl game.
On Friday, Dec. 30, MSU will play the Wake Forest Demon Deacons in the Music City Bowl at LP Field in Nashville, Tenn. Kickoff is scheduled for 5:40 p.m., and the game will be televised nationally on ESPN.
Mississippi State director of athletics Scott Stricklin and Mullen accepted a formal invitation on Sunday from Music City Bowl Board Chairman Brad Lampley and President and CEO Scott Ramsey.
Stricklin was the first to unveil the Bulldogs’ bowl destination, tweeting the announcement at 5:12 p.m. and beating the official Music City Bowl’s Twitter statement to the punch.
MSU’s official football Twitter account confirmed the team’s opponents at 7:41 p.m.
“We’re happy to accept this invitation and for the opportunity to play in such a great bowl and wonderful city,” Stricklin said in a release. “I’m proud of our players and coaches for their efforts throughout the season, and we’re all looking forward to seeing the huge crowd of Bulldog fans in Nashville.”
The Bulldogs (6-6 overall, 2-6 in the SEC) became bowl eligible after defeating Ole Miss 31-3 for the team’s third Egg Bowl victory in a row.
“This is a great accomplishment for our players and coaches who worked hard all season long,” Mullen said in a release. “We’re excited to make the trip to Nashville and play in a great bowl game. This game is a reward for our players and fans, and — as we’ve said all season — the practices and preparation will be important for the development of the future of our program.”
MSU opened the season with a win on the road at Memphis, but lost two straight to then-ranked Auburn and current No. 1 LSU. MSU would go on to alternate wins and losses over the next four weeks before earning back-to-back wins over Kentucky and UT-Martin. MSU finished the season with losses against two teams highly ranked teams — Arkansas and Alabama — and then its victory over Ole Miss.
On offense, MSU is led by its two-quarterback system — Chris Relf and Tyler Russell — and running back Vick Ballard. Relf and Russell have combined to throw for over 2,000 yards, while Ballard is the lone MSU running back with over 1,000 yards on the ground. Through the air, receivers Chad Bumphis, Arceto Cark and Chris Smith have combined for over 80 catches and 1,000 receiving yards.
After dropping its opening game to Syracuse in overtime, Wake Forest (6-6 overall, 5-3 in the ACC) won four straight games, beating N.C. State, Gardner-Webb, Boston College and Florida State. After splitting a win and a loss against Duke and Virginia Tech respectively, the Demon Deacons dropped three in a row to North Carolina, Notre Dame and eventual conference champion Clemson. Wake Forest defeated Maryland in its last conference game, but lost by 34 points to Vanderbilt in the season finale.
The Demon Deacons have a potent air attack led by sophomore quarterback Tanner Price. This season alone, Price has thrown for over 2,800 yards with 20 touchdowns and six interceptions. In eight games this year, Price has thrown for over 200 yards. His biggest performance — 320 passing yards — came against Maryland. Against Vanderbilt, Wake Forest’s only SEC opponent of the year, Price did not complete more than half of his passes and was held to only 157 yards in the air.
Overall, MSU is 8-6 in bowl games since the 1937 Orange Bowl against Duquesne. Since 2000, Mississippi State has gone undefeated in postseason play. The Bulldogs defeated Texas A&M in overtime for the 2000 Independence Bowl title, beat Central Florida by a touchdown to take the 2007 Liberty Bowl trophy and dominated Michigan in last year’s Gator Bowl. This year marks the second time since 1999-2000 that MSU has played in consecutive bowl games. In 1999, the Bulldogs played two bowl games — Jan. 1’s Cotton Bowl against Texas and Dec. 30’s Peach Bowl against Clemson — then followed with the Independence Bowl against Texas A&M in 2000. The Bulldogs victory over Michigan came on Jan. 1 of this year.
Bowl ticket sales began immediately following the Bulldogs’ victory over Ole Miss, and the Mississippi State ticket office has exhausted its 12,000 ticket allotment to the Music City Bowl. Fans who did not pre-order their tickets can contact the Music City Bowl ticket office through TicketMaster at http://www.ticketmaster.com/MusicCityBowl  or 800-745-3000.
Mississippi State’s Gameday page — http://www.mstateathletics.com/gameday  — will be updated this week with complete information on the Bulldogs’ trip to the 2011 Music City Bowl. The page will feature information and links for both Mississippi State and its opponent, and will include coverage of the Bulldogs as they prepare for the Dec. 30 matchup in Nashville.
State will return to practice Friday. The first week of practice will be open to the public.