Mississippi State's sixth-year coach is a favorite of the Bulldogs' cowbell-crazy fans for leading the school to a 8--0 record and its first No. 1 ranking, but a showdown at rival Ole Miss looms on Nov. 29.
DAN PATRICK:What's the coolest thing in your office?
DAN MULLEN: It's gotta be the pictures of my kids. The fans probably wouldn't think that's cool. I do have a couple of national championship rings.
DP:When's the last time you put on the rings?
DM: I don't because I didn't win them at Mississippi State. I'd only wear one that I won at Mississippi State.
DP:Getting used to being No. 1?
DM: I tell you what, it's better than being No. 2.
DP:Have you talked with your former boss Urban Meyer about the pressure of being No. 1?
DM: I was fortunate being [offensive coordinator under] Urban at Florida when we had a lot of attention. We had a Heisman Trophy winner in Tim Tebow. We won two national championships in three years. The biggest thing I got out of it: Remember what got you there. Enjoy the hype and the attention, but make sure the focus doesn't change from what got you there in the first place because it will all disappear.
DP:What did you think of the cowbells when you were at Florida?
DM: I spent four years at Florida, and Mississippi State was one of the schools [in the SEC] we did not visit. My first game at Davis-Wade Stadium with the cowbells was my first game as head coach.
DP:Do you hate Ole Miss?
DM: That's a pretty fair assumption. There's nothing personal. I know and recruited a lot of their players. I know their coaches. I think it's more a dislike of the institution as a whole. And I don't use words like that. We just call them the school up north.
DP:Don't you want Ole Miss to have a good record when you face them?
DM: I would have loved for both teams to have been undefeated for the Egg Bowl. That would be such a special deal for the state of Mississippi.
DP:What role do you play in promoting Dak Prescott for the Heisman?
DM: We're pretty fortunate. There's so much attention and hype that gets out there. I don't think we have to do anything. I tell him all the time, if he likes the attention, keep playing well and help us win. If he doesn't, go out and throw a couple of interceptions and everyone will leave him alone.
DP:When's the last time you yelled at Prescott?
DM: Yesterday at practice I probably yelled at him three or four times. I have a pretty high standard. It's a friendly yell. I would call it loud constructive criticism.
I asked Joe Montana how his game would translate to today's NFL. "If I was playing [now], I'd have to be like Peyton or Brady because I couldn't move," Montana said. "I might be able to beat both of them now [in the 40]." ... Ole Miss senior quarterback Bo Wallace doesn't like the Good Bo, Bad Bo moniker bestowed upon him for his perceived up-and-down play. "You can call any quarterback Bad So and So, Good So and So during a game," Wallace said. "It's part of playing quarterback. For me to be the only one that's happened to, it's pretty annoying." ... Michigan State junior quarterback Connor Cook is starting to get some attention from NFL draft analysts, but he told me he has no intention of forgoing his senior season. "Who wants to leave college?" Cook said. "College is fun."
MICHAEL J. LEBRECHT II FOR SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (PATRICK)
SIMON BRUTY/SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (MULLEN)
BRAD MANGIN FOR SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (MONTANA)
JONATHAN BACHMAN/AP (WALLACE)
ROBERT BECK/SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (COOK)