Mississippi State chooses a QB while Oregon chooses to go with two
STARKVILLE, Miss. -- It's been a long time since Mississippi State had a big win against a good team, the kind of victory the Bulldogs could boast about and build upon.
Coming off its second straight three-win season, Mississippi State gets a chance to show that things are going to be different this year when Oregon becomes the first Pac-10 team to visit Starkville on Saturday night.
"I think it'd be a big boost if we come out and win in this opener," Bulldogs center Blake Jones said. "I'm not so much worried about what it shows other people as what it shows us on the team. It'll just show we have come a long way. We can prove to ourselves that we've got a good thing going. If other people come on and start to believe too, that's fine."
The Bulldogs started 2002 with a 36-13 loss at Oregon with quarterback Kevin Fant back in Starkville serving an NCAA suspension. The season never got any better.
The Bulldogs went 0-8 in the Southeastern Conference and were rarely even close.
Even when they did win, they beat weak teams that they were expected to beat. And Mississippi State struggled in a couple of those games.
An 11-8 win at home over Troy State doesn't exactly instill confidence in a team.
"Having the two seasons like we have, you've got to get some confidence going," Fant said. "In any sport you play ... if you don't have confidence, nothing else falls into place."
After a late season swoon in 2002, the Ducks also start the season looking to re-establish themselves. Oregon lost six of its last seven and was blown out in each of the final three games.
"We haven't had a victory in quite some time. It's about time we get one," safety Keith Lewis said. "If we start this season off with a victory, that'll answer a lot of questions and it'll shut up the critics and that's something we're trying to do right now."
Lewis said he's glad to get another shot at Mississippi State. He wasn't thrilled with the way the Bulldogs conducted themselves last season.
"Well, you have to look at it that they are an SEC team, so that's all you can expect, they play dirty football out there," Lewis said. "They're not real big in the sportsmanship area. It's the whole conference, not just Mississippi State. Sportsmanship is not big on their priority list."
The Bulldogs might need to bend the rules a bit to handle Oregon's lines.
When Bulldogs coach Jackie Sherrill was asked his biggest concern coming into the opener he didn't hesitate to answer, "The line of scrimmage."
Mississippi State is hoping for much better play from both lines this season, while relying on many of the same players who were ineffective last season.
Meanwhile, the Ducks' strength appears to be up front. All five starters return on the offensive line and their defensive line is anchored by two of the Pac-10's best in tackle Haloti Ngata and end Igor Olshansky.
Injuries could make matters worse for the Bulldogs. Starting guards Brad Weathers and Johnny Wadley are both out with injuries.
The Bulldogs were hoping to greet the Ducks, who haven't played at an SEC opponent in 26 years, with a heavy dose of steamy, sticky Deep South weather. The forecast calls for a high of 91 degrees on Saturday, but the game time was moved back to 8 p.m. CDT to accommodate television so heat shouldn't be as much of a factor.
Plus, Oregon might have a way to beat the heat. The Ducks were given experimental cooling vests by Nike for players to wear under their uniforms. The vests plug into a compressor on the sidelines and dehumidified air is blown on the players.
Sherrill wasn't pleased that Nike failed to offer the vests to Mississippi State, which also has a contract with the sports apparel giant.
Oregon might not use the vests anyway, and at least one player said he'll definitely pass.
"I'm not a big fan," quarterback Jason Fife said. "Wearing it feels very heavy, so I probably won't wear one. I'll just rely on water."
This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index
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