BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Mississippi State and Southern Miss butt helmets beginning Saturday night at 9:00 at M.M. Roberts in Hattiesburg. The late kickoff is to accommodate a live telecast on Fox Sports 1.
The Bulldogs crushed Southern Miss 49-0 in Starkville on August 30, 2014. Mississippi State is 5-1 under Dan Mullen in season-openers.
Mullen said, "We are excited getting ready to start the season. You work hard for these moments and now we are in game week. We have been bashing into each other for quite a while so the opportunity for us to get on the field and play another opponent is really exciting. Our guys, they're practicing year-round for these opportunities. There are not many opportunities to go play in the game. They're practicing nonstop to prepare themselves for these moments and we have to go take advantage of it."
Southern Miss head coach Todd Monken said, "We are excited to get the 2015 season kicked off. It started last winter with the hiring of Zac Woodfin as our strength and conditioning coordinator and was a change we felt like we needed to make there. We have had a great off-season, a great summer and a really good last four weeks. We've done a good job here in terms of changing over the roster to give ourselves a chance to have success every week. We feel good about all the players that we have. I like the direction we have taken and Saturday will be a barometer to how far we've come. It was obvious we hadn't come far enough when we went up there last year and played."
Quarterback Dak Prescott is back for his senior season. He's throw at least one touchdown pass in 14 consecutive games and holds the Mississippi State career completion percentage of .604, connecting on 418 of 692 pass attempts.
"We're excited about this game week, "stated Prescott. "We've all been waiting for this. We had a great camp and transition week last week so we're all excited. We're preparing for Southern Miss. I just can't stress enough to play someone besides ourselves finally."
In 20 games with Prescott as the Bulldogs starting quarterback, Mississippi State has averaged 501.7 total offensive yards per game.
Coach Monken knows his Golden Eagles defense will face a stern test on Saturday with Prescott running the Bulldogs explosive offense.
"First of all, he is a tremendous football player, "said Monken. "When you talk about him getting his opportunity you mention how he is one of the rare examples of a young man buying his time and working hard. So many people today want to quit and change. They want it now. He has worked hard to get where he is and that's a credit to him and his staff around them up there. He took advantage of it. They have taken off up there since he started playing. What he does is he doesn't make mistakes, he is accurate and he can beat you with his feet or his arm. That's a difficult proposition but I do think they do the right things with him."
While the Bulldogs have Prescott behind center, the Golden Eagles could play both quarterbacks Nick Mullins and Tyler Matthews against Mississippi State.
"It's possible, "said Monken. "We anticipate both to play, because both are good players."
Coach Mullen is expected to start 22 juniors or seniors.
"To me, we are a program that is based on developing young men more than just trying to be a feeder system to the NFL, "stated Mullen. "Guys come here to develop, get a degree and learn how to become champions in life. There are a lot of guys out there that want the fastest way to get into the NFL. That is not really our program. It is good for us that we have those older guys. We are always playing with veteran teams or teams that have guy who have been in the program and have developed. The young guys that we will rotate in, hopefully they are continuing to develop and will get the opportunity to become starters sometimes down the road. When they do get that opportunity, they already have a bit of experience on the field."
Southern Miss fans are appreciative of Mississippi State for renewing the in-state rivalry especially with the Bulldogs playing the game in Hattiesburg. Bulldogs coach Dan Mullen welcomes the competition with the Golden Eagles.
"I think it is a great for us to have the opportunity to go play this game, especially to kickoff this season, "stated Mullen. "It is a huge game in the state of Mississippi to the people here. I know the opportunity to get this game played for the fans on both sides. This is a game that can have a lot of tradition to it and a lot of people in the state of Mississippi that take a lot of pride. I know that everybody has so much pride in their schools, so the opportunity when the schools get to play each other is huge. We are fortunate to be able to be a part of it and I am happy for us to be able to renew the rivalry."
The Golden Eagles have many new faces on both offense and defense with JUCO and players who transferred from other major programs. Could they make a difference for Southern Miss on Saturday? Well, you can expect the Golden Eagles to be sky high for the game, but will the Golden Eagles wear down in the second half?
Las Vegas odds makers have tabbed Mississippi State a 55 1/2 point favorite over Southern Miss.