We've all seen the signs and t-shirts and heard the crowd chants: "WE WANT BAMA." It's become a common place saying among teams outside the SEC that are ranked at the top of the polls but don't get the opportunity to play the Crimson Tide.
2014 has already seen the Tide fall to our neighbors to the north and if what I've read on Twitter is true (and, as we all know, everything on Twitter is always true), Alabama fans were actually chanting "WE WANT STATE" a couple of Saturdays ago during their absolute annihilation of Texas A&M.
Just take that in, folks.
Fans of a team that won three national championships in the last six years were chanting about how they want to play Mississippi State because MSU is the top ranked team in America. The irony is absolutely staggering.
And now that Ole Miss dropped a game at LSU, if the Rebels lose to Auburn this weekend, by default the Alabama-MSU game will decide which SEC West team will advance to the SEC Championship game. And to top it all off, with the announcement of the first College Football Playoff rankings last night, now State is one of the favorites to advance to the playoff and have a shot at a national championship. It's a lot to deal with.
At this point, with only two games remaining before MSU takes their fated trip to Tuscaloosa, Dan Mullen and his team could easily be looking forward and preparing for what will no doubt be the biggest game in the history of Mississippi State's football program.
They could be looking forward to that game, but they better not be.
This week the biggest game in the history of MSU football is happening in Davis Wade Stadium against the Arkansas Razorbacks. During their trip to Lexington last week, the Bulldogs found out for the first time what it's like to play a game as the top ranked team in the nation and have an opponent bring their absolute "A" game in a very tough road environment.
The Dawgs passed that test but it was only the beginning. State should expect the Razorbacks to play their best game of the season on Saturday. Beating Bret Bielema's crew will not be an easy task.
With the college football landscape as it stands, what will truly separate this team in MSU football history and vault it from being great to being the best team to ever wear maroon and white lies in whether or not they will melt under the heat of the national spotlight. As a top ranked team, there are so many distractions that can sidetrack players and coaches that it could almost be expected for MSU to slip up. Five games stand in between this team and a bid in the SEC Championship and that run has to be played one game at a time and it all starts Saturday night in Starkville.
Nothing else really matters now, not analysts opinions, not the College Football Playoff Committee rankings, not SEC bias, not Heisman watch lists, not Player of the Week awards; none of it.
There's just Mississippi State and Arkansas.
If MSU can adopt this mindset, everything else will fall into place. So, I think for this week the team motto should be "WE WANT ARKANSAS."
This is nothing to chant from the stands or put on a t-shirt but it's the most important message this football team could hear right now. With so many accomplishments already behind them and and the potential for so much ahead, State cannot afford to become blinded by the bright lights of a potential playoff bid or an SEC Championship. This season means too much to the school and fans for the team not to put every ounce of effort towards doing what it takes to reach the ultimate goal. And that means all we want is Arkansas.
We don't want Bama or Ole Miss or an SEC Championship game or a playoff bid, right now all we need is a win over the Razorbacks and we'll let ESPN worry about all that other stuff.