Sep 14, 2013; Houston, TX, USA; Rice Owls offensive linesman Matt Simonette (60) and kicker Chris Boswell (9) celebrate after Boswell kicks a field goal during the second quarter against the Kansas Jayhawks at Rice Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Bowl games are a different animal. It’s a postseason game that really doesn’t mean anything, or does it? It really just depends on the program, where the program is at the time, how excited are they to be there, etc? There are many determining factors that go into a team’s performance, and it can be a lot different than a regular season game.
How are the bowl practices run? Is there more focus on youth and development or actually making sure we win the game? This is MSU’s 4th straight bowl game – are we just there to enjoy the experience or on a mission to have a winning record for the 2013 season?
Mississippi State has a history of playing down to the opponent under Dan Mullen.
- 2010: MSU 29, UAB 24
- 2011: MSU 26, LA Tech 20 in OT
- 2012: MSU 30, Troy 24
- 2013: MSU 21, Bowling Green 20
You can say what you want about those teams – sure, LA Tech was 8-5 that year and BG won the MAC this year, but the fact is we are a SEC team and they are not. We may not have better athletes at every position, but we do at most and our depth is far superior to theirs. To Mullen’s credit he is 17-1 vs. non-BCS teams, but it’s not without these close calls. Rice falls into that category, and while they are 10-3 and C-USA champions, Mississippi State is still the better team, and the favorite in this game.
Now add the fact that it’s a bowl game into the mix. What will MSU’s mental approach be? Are we just hanging out or looking to make sure the year finishes strong?
We know what Rice will be looking to do. They have never won 11 games in the history of their program. The SEC is printed on our chest – we are the target. An 11-3 season with a win over the SEC will make Rice’s season historic. That’s what we’re up against. Just look at how excited they were to go to the Liberty Bowl…
For MSU, 6-6 was a disappointment. Yeah, many thought we’d have this record (or perhaps worse) but that doesn’t mean goals and ambitions were met. It was a good season, but we did not reach any new heights – something that is always a goal. The consolation prize is a bowl trip to Memphis. It’s another notch on the belt for the program we’re building, but it’s not a marquee game for our program. Rice comes in looking at it completely the opposite. Will we match their intensity, their preparation? Will the Dawgs come out to win the game? If not, we will be in for a fight and have a chance to be upset, and our string of winning seasons will be no more. But if we stay focused and are determined to win, we’ll do just that.