Campus Corner

SEC/Big 12 outlook: Mississippi State can’t rest on its laurels

Dak Prescott and Mississippi State ran past LSU and Ronald Martin last Saturday.
Dak Prescott and Mississippi State ran past LSU and Ronald Martin last Saturday. The Associated Press

Mississippi State is off this week, and maybe the Bulldogs can devote some of the extra time to catch its collective breath after one of the program’s great victories.

By winning at then-No. 8 LSU last Saturday, Mississippi State ended a 15-game losing streak to ranked opponents and a 14-game skid to the Tigers. The average margin of those losses to LSU: 26 points.

Yet, Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen emphasized Wednesday, beating the Tigers wasn’t a singular quest.

“Despite having a great win, we really haven’t accomplished much, except for going 1-0,” Mullen said. “But that wasn’t our goal for the season.”

To ensure the message, Mullen met with the team’s veterans after returning from Baton Rouge. He was confident the elder statesmen would respond well to the additional attention. Their responsibility was to guide the team’s less experienced players.

The veterans “have had ups and downs,” Mullen said. “The pats on the back, walking around campus, feeling great about yourself, they’ve had that.

“But for the younger guys, they (need to) keep their focus.”

Next up for Mississippi State, successive home games with Texas A&M and Auburn starting on Oct. 4. The cowbells could be deafening.

Saturday’s SEC games

▪ Tennessee at Georgia, 11 a.m. on ESPN: This was a terrific game last year with the Bulldogs pulling off a 34-31 overtime victory in Knoxville. This year, both teams are seeking their first SEC victory and the Vols have had an extra week to work on the issues from the Oklahoma loss. Tennessee running back Treyvon Paulk was dismissed from the team earlier this week for hitting a woman in the mouth at a party. Charges weren’t pressed against Paulk, who hadn’t appeared in any of the Vols’ three games, but he was dismissed based on a “personal conduct code.”

▪ Vanderbilt at Kentucky, 11 a.m. on SEC Network: The teams are a combined 0-3 in league play, so somebody’s getting an SEC victory. Vandy played its best game in a two-touchdown loss to South Carolina last week, an effort that included a pair of kickoff returns for touchdowns by Darrius Sims. Kentucky’s lone loss was a triple-overtime setback at Florida two weeks ago. Quarterback Patrick Towles threw for 369 yards against the Gators.

▪ Arkansas vs. Texas A&M at Arlington, Texas, 2:30 p.m. on CBS (Ch. 5): Two straight weeks in the Metroplex for the Aggies, who swamped SMU last weekend. The offense is clicking with quarterback Kenny Hill Jr., but so is the Razorbacks’. “We’ll know a lot more about our team after Saturday because they’re going to challenge us,” Aggies coach Kevin Sumlin said. “They’ll want to impose their will.” Arkansas operates a powerful running game behind one of the nation’s top offensive lines.

▪ Louisiana Tech at Auburn, 3 p.m. on SEC Network: Good comparison opportunity here. Oklahoma walloped the Bulldogs 48-16 in the opener. Auburn got a solid victory at Kansas State last week, a game in which the Tigers’ defense had its best game. Auburn’s schedule grows fangs after this one. The next six opponents, all in the SEC, are ranked.

▪ Missouri at South Carolina, 6 p.m. on ESPN: Both teams are in a foul mood. The Tigers let down in a home loss to Indiana, and the Gamecocks were sloppy and uneven in winning at Vanderbilt. It’s the league opener for Mizzou, which lost this matchup a year ago but won the division crown. South Carolina is the only division opponent Missouri didn’t defeat in its first two SEC years.

▪ Memphis at Mississippi, 6:30 p.m. on ESPN3: The Rebels haven’t been pushed since the first three quarters of their opening victory over Boise State, but the Tigers could be tricky. Earlier in the month they were tied at UCLA in the fourth quarter before falling by a touchdown. Memphis is averaging 45 points per game.

▪ New Mexico State at LSU, 7:30 p.m. on SEC Network: Not a good time for New Mexico State to catch the Tigers, who are coming off a home loss to Mississippi State. In that loss, LSU surrendered 570 yards, the most by a Tigers’ defense since 2010. The Aggies, coming off losses to UTEP and New Mexico, figure to have LSU’s full attention.

Thursday’s Big 12 game

▪ Texas Tech at Oklahoma State, 6:30 p.m. on ESPN: The Mike Smith era begins. Smith replaces Matt Wallerstedt as Texas Tech’s defensive coordinator. Wallerstedt said he resigned for “personal reasons.” The Cowboys also are making an adjustment, to Daxx Garman at quarterback with J.W. Walsh recovering from a foot injury. Oklahoma State has won the past five meetings with the Red Raiders, the last three by an average score 59-25.

Saturday’s Big 12 games

▪ Texas-El Paso at Kansas State, 11 a.m. on Fox Sports KC: The Miners of Conference USA have played one Big 12 team, falling at home to Texas Tech 30-26. They’ve also defeated New Mexico and New Mexico State. UTEP running back Aaron Jones has rushed for 549 yards and averages 7.8 yards per carry.

▪ TCU at SMU, 11 a.m. on CBS Sports Network: The Mustangs are a disaster. They rank last in FBS in rushing (20.5), scoring (4.0) and points against (48.7). TCU has won the past two editions of the “Battle for the Iron Skillet.” The Frogs, coming off a resounding victory over Minnesota two weeks ago, should easily make it three straight.

▪ Texas at Kansas, 3 p.m. on Fox Sports 1: The battle of the Coach Charlies. Texas’ Strong has had two weeks to stew over the UCLA loss, and in that time he’s booted another player, offensive tackle Kennedy Estrelle, the ninth dismissal since taking over the program. The Jayhawks are coming off a two-touchdown victory over Central Michigan and seek consecutive victories for first time under Kansas’ Weis.

▪ Baylor at Iowa State, 7 p.m. on Fox (Ch. 4): The Bears dropped a 71-7 bomb on the Cyclones last season, but have lost their last two games in Ames. Wide receiver KD Cannon is one of several freshmen in the Big 12 off to a great start. He’s averaging 33.6 yards per reception. Cannon has stepped up with established Antwan Goodley out with an injury in the season opener. Goodley is back this week.

To reach Blair Kerkhoff, call 816-234-4730 or send email to bkerkhoff@kcstar.com. Follow him on Twitter @BlairKerkhoff.

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