Created on Friday, 11 October 2013 Written by DAVID BRANDT, AP Sports Writer
STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen looks back on his time at Bowling Green with fondness. It also gives him firsthand knowledge of just how good the Falcons can be.
Mississippi State football coach Dan Mullen, right, complains about an official's call in the second half of an NCAA college football game against LSU in Starkville, Miss., Saturday, Oct. 5, 2013. No. 10 LSU won 59-26. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
Mullen's first full-time coaching job was at Bowling Green in 2001 and 2002. He was the quarterbacks coach under Urban Meyer.
"When I was there we went undefeated against BCS schools," Mullen said. "So I think their kids really look forward to playing in these games. The chip on the shoulder is the opportunity to play a SEC school. We get to do it eight times a year — they get to do it once so it's a pretty big opportunity for those guys."
The Bulldogs (2-3) host Bowling Green (5-1) on Saturday at Davis Wade Stadium. The Falcons haven't beaten a Southeastern Conference opponent since Kentucky in 1985.
Bowling Green is on a three-game winning streak, but it's only other game against an opponent from a BCS conference this season ended in a 42-10 loss to Indiana.
Mississippi State is hoping for some defensive improvement after giving up 563 total yards in a 59-26 loss to No. 10 LSU last Saturday.
Bowling Green's offense is led by Travis Greene, who has rushed for 711 yards and three touchdowns this season. Matt Johnson has completed 65.2 percent of his passes for nine touchdowns and three interceptions.
"We've got to stand up, respond to what happened to us last Saturday and be ready to play," Mississippi State defensive coordinator Geoff Collins said.
Bowling Green coach Dave Clawson said the final LSU score is deceiving because it was a 31-26 game early in the fourth quarter. He expects Mississippi State's defense to rebound.
"Watching the film, it's clearly a different level," Clawson said. "On defense they can run in the secondary and at linebacker. Their (defensive) front is beautiful."
Five things to watch as Mississippi State hosts Bowling Green on Saturday:
PERSONAL TIES: Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen is quite familiar with Bowling Green. It's where he got his start as a full-time college coach in 2001 and 2002, working as the quarterbacks coach under Urban Meyer. Bowling Green was undefeated against teams from BCS conference during Mullen's tenure and he expects the Falcons to be very competitive on Saturday.
THE TWO-QB SYSTEM: Mississippi State's Tyler Russell and Dak Prescott split time under center during last weekend's loss to LSU and both were effective. Russell is the better pure pocket passer, but Prescott continues to make plays with his feet, including a 28-yard touchdown run against the Tigers.
MSU'S DEFENSE: Mississippi State's defense was torched last weekend in a 59-26 loss to LSU, giving up 563 yards in the process. Mullen and defensive coordinator Geoff Collins said the Bulldogs were a little too aggressive against LSU, jumping out of position in an attempt to make spectacular plays.
BOWLING GREEN'S STREAK: Bowling Green comes into Saturday's game on a three-game winning streak. But the Falcons' only other game against a program from a BCS conference didn't go so well — it was a 42-10 loss to Indiana in September. Bowling Green hasn't beaten a team from the Southeastern Conference since Kentucky in 1985.
GROUND GAME: Bowling Green's has a balanced offense led by running back Travis Greene, who already has 711 yards rushing and three touchdowns this season. He's on pace for more than 1,400 yards and could break the school's single-season record of 1,444 yards, which was set in 1951. The consistent running game has allowed the Falcons to be good in the red zone this season, scoring on 24 of 26 attempts. The only two empty trips were kneel downs at the end of wins.