Mississippi State Football: Why the Pressure Is on Dan Mullen

Jake WimberlyContributor IIISeptember 3, 2012

Nov 27, 2010; Oxford, MS, USA; Mississippi State Bulldogs head coach Dan Mullen reacts to a play during the game against the Ole Miss Rebels at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. The Bulldogs defeated the Rebels 31-23.  Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-US PRESSWIRE
Marvin Gentry-US PRESSWIRE

Put up or shut up, Make hay or roll on in, go big or go home. Those are all sayings for show me what you are working with or please sit down, kind sir.

Dan Mullen, now in his fourth year at Mississippi State, has done some remarkable things for a program that has only a handful of successful seasons. From season-ticket sales going through the roof, to beating his arch-rival three straight times, to proclaiming the state of Mississippi belongs to the Maroon and White, to two straight bowl wins, he's made an impact.

Mullen has given his fanbase much to be proud of, But the brash, cocky coach, much like many coaches of his generation, can sometimes get carried away if he is not careful. Mullen has proclaimed that Mississippi State is not that far from competing on the national stage and more.

The old saying, "fake it 'till you make it," or power perceived is power achieved, has to be Mullen's motto. But when you look at his resume in SEC play—3-12 versus the SEC West—it is hardly championship-caliber.

For all he has done, Mullen still has not beaten anyone besides Ole Miss in the SEC West. That sort of talk will amp back up this week with Auburn set to come to Starkville on Saturday.

Yes, the SEC is shooting for its seventh straight national championship in football. And, yes, three of those champions hail from the SEC West.

It's also probably true that Arkansas would win the Big Ten or ACC and that the SEC West is by far the toughest division in college football.

But all that is moot now and Mullen must produce. He must take his team to that next level if anyone is going to ever take him seriously.

His first opportunity comes this weekend against a coach who has gotten the best of him in more ways than one.  Gene Chizik not only has stolen two straight from Mullen in heartbreaking fashion, he also was able to land prize recruit Cam Newton a few years ago when many felt Mullen had the edge on Newton due to their previous relationship at Florida.

After Saturday night's season-opening win over Jackson State, Mullen quickly turned attention to Auburn, which lost a heartbreaker to Clemson to begin its 2012 campaign.

When asked about the importance of this game, Mullen told ClarionLedger.com:  "We've been right there with opportunities to win and didn't pull it out, so I think our guys are motivated."

With Auburn taking one on the chin this past Saturday, the drama now intensifies. Chizik's team can ill afford to go 0-2. So you know Auburn will come ready to play and expecting to beat a team it has beaten 10 out of the last 11 tries. 

A loss to Mississippi State would put Auburn in a serious hole and place Chizik on a hot seat with the Auburn faithful. The Tigers will throw everything they have at Mississippi State this coming Saturday.

Mullen and his team will no doubt be prepared.  An 18th straight sellout is expected, and a nationally televised audience will be able to watch the first Saturday SEC game of the season. We have all seen this scenario before.

Getting to bowl games and beating your rival make alumni happy, but for only so long in this day and age of what have you done for me lately. Today, you have to continue to show improvement. Mullen gets that chance against a team he has had on the ropes before.

Saturday is another chance for Mullen to knock one of the big boys down and say—I told you so, we are not that far away.