BOZICH | Language of losing next obstacle for Kentucky, Indiana football
The language of losing programs is powerful in college football. Check the diverse national reactions to Mississippi State, Kentucky and Indiana after recent games.
Tuesday, September 23rd 2014, 11:34 AM EDT
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Mississippi State toppled Louisiana State in Death Valley Saturday night, and you could hear the cow bells rattle from Starkville to Seattle to South Beach.
Open your web browser and read the breathless praise. Fox Sports screamed that the Bulldogs are a “serious SEC title sleeper.” (Have Alabama and Auburn jumped to the SEC East – or Big Ten?)
Sports Illustrated was ready with love, love, love, delivering a headline that screamed, “Mississippi State breaks through in vaunted SEC West.”
Want more? Check the writers' poll -- and the coaches' poll. You can find Mississippi State 14th (writers) and 16th (coaches), one of eight Southeastern Conference teams ranked in the top 17.
Make no mistake. Mississippi State is deserving of the kind words and recognition. The Bulldogs are 4-0, outscoring their opponents by 99 points. They've won two road games.
I was not surprised they won in Baton Rouge. I actually picked them to win that game. They have the quarterback (Dak Prescott) and experience to compete.
But it has taken MSU coach Dan Mullen six seasons to overcome an issue that Mark Stoops of Kentucky and Kevin Wilson of Indiana are still trying to shed – the language of losing and low expectations.
For now, when Kentucky and Indiana win, the default position is how poorly the favored team performed.
Stoops and Wilson have to change that. Mullen has stopped that kind of chatter in Starkville.
Mississippi State won at LSU and web sites harmonized in praise across America.
One week earlier Kentucky played the cleats off Florida in The Swamp before losing in three overtimes. What was the primary reaction?
The Gators are no better than the 4-8 team of last season. Do you think Will Muschamp will survive the season before he's fired? Jeff Driskel is a dreadful quarterback.
Indiana bounced into Columbia and then hustled past Missouri with a determined drive in the final 2-1/2 minutes. What was the primary reaction?
Missouri is overrated.
The Tigers are nothing close to the team that won the East Division of the Southeastern Conference last season. Was 2013 a fluke in Columbia, something Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee will never let happen again?
Credit to Kentucky?
Locally, yes. If you've been watching the work that Stoops and his staff have done you've already recognized the improved team speed, athleticism and depth in Commonwealth Stadium. Kentucky should end its SEC losing streak with gusto against Vanderbilt Saturday.
Nationally, not really. The world will demand considerably more proof.
Credit to Indiana?
Locally, yes. If you've been watching the work that Wilson and his staff have done, you understand that halfback Tevin Coleman, quarterback Nate Sudfeld and receiver Shane Wynn give Indiana a puncher's chance to score on most possessions.
Nationally, it was mostly yawns. The world will demand considerably more proof.
Context shows that Mississippi State is trying to deliver its fifth consecutive winning season. The Bulldogs have won three bowl games in the last four seasons. They're miles ahead on the growth curve. Beating LSU and Alabama remained two final milestones for Mullen's program.
UK and IU are trying to stop streaks of multiple losing seasons. Kentucky's last bowl was 2010, Indiana's 2007. There's work to do in Lexington and Bloomington, winning seasons to deliver.
Mississippi State won at LSU, which was ranked 8th in the AP poll last week. Kentucky lost at Florida. The Gators were unranked. Indiana won at Missouri, a week after the Hoosiers lost to Bowling Green, which has been rolled by Western Kentucky and Wisconsin.
Some of it is understandable. But there is also the language of losing and low expectations – and that's another obstacle that Kentucky and Indiana still have to overcome.
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