It's game week as Southern Miss and Mississippi State get ready for Saturday

STARKVILLE, MS (WLOX) - This will be the first clash between the Golden Eagles and Bulldogs since September 22nd, 1990 when Mississippi State's Joel Logan connected on a 41-yard field goal with 3:01 remaining lifting coach Rocky Felker's Bulldogs past Brett Favre's Golden Eagles 13 to 10.

Southern Miss opens its 98th football season while Mississippi State kicks off its 115th year of football.

The Golden Eagles ended a school-record 23-game losing streak on November 30, 2013 when they defeated UAB 62-57 in Birmingham to close out the season 1 and 11.

The Bulldogs won its last three games last season to finish 7-6, including a 17-10 Egg Bowl win over arch rival Ole Miss  and a dominating performance in the Liberty Bowl, crushing Rice 44-7.

Southern Miss leads the MSU series with a 14-12-1 record but the odds have Mississippi State a 28 1/2 point favorite to beat the Golden Eagles.

Bulldogs head coach Dan Mullen said,""I know our guys are fired up about the opportunity to play against guys they played against in high school or played with in high school. We know a lot of the guys on their team from recruiting, we know most of the guys as in-state players. And it's going to be really exciting for us to get this going, get this season kicked off and play such a fun opponent in such a great rivalry game. I mean it's something special to start a season with a rivalry game like this."

Golden Eagles head coach Todd Monken said,""We are going to find out exactly where we are at. We are going to find out how much we have improved over the course of last year and the off season. It is always an indicator of where you are at when you get to play a quality opponent like Mississippi State. You will find out exactly where the improvements have come. That will be a hard place to play on the road. Our players know that. We are going to find out exactly where we are at and how far we have come and where we have got to go."

Southern Miss will have sophomore quarterback Nick Mullens in the starting lineup on Saturday.  Mississippi State will go with junior standout Dak Prescott who is a candidate for National Player of the Year.

Monken knows his Golden Eagles defense will get a real test facing quarterback Prescott.

He said,""I keep saying this, but I think we are excited to play anybody. It is the start of the season. It is time to go play someone else and find out what we are going to be for the 2014 season. Ultimately, is it heightened because it is Mississippi State? Yes. Is it heightened because you have got a tremendous quarterback that poses a number of threats? You bet it does. It takes more than just those guys. It takes all 11. In fact, it takes all 22 on your two-deep to play. I think we are excited to get the season kicked off. It is everything you work for year round."

Mullen says he believes in playing in-state schools.

"It's huge. It's an in-state game. It's not going to be the same as that, you know what I mean? There is no game that is going to be the same as that for us, ever. The Championship Game is probably not going to have the same emphasis as that. I mean that's something that is just different as everybody knows in the state here. I think by playing those other ones our guys understand the importance of in-state rivalries.

Southern Miss head coach Todd Monken enters his second season in Hattiesburg hoping to lead the Golden Eagles under the win column. Facing the Bulldogs in the season opener on the road is a difficult task, but he'll have Southern Miss ready for prime time come Saturday...with sophomore quarterback Nick Mullens getting the starting nod.

Mullens said,"Just protecting the ball because whoever wins the turnover battle wins the game. So just going out there and making sure that I protect the ball first and make plays. That's just something that I've really focused on.

"He's got much better strength,"stated Monken. "He's more physically developed. His arm talent has developed. His arm accuracy has developed and his mental part of the game has developed."

WLOX will be in Starkville Saturday night for the Southern Miss-Mississippi State clash.

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