HOOVER, Ala. - Mississippi State spent more than a month as the No. 1 team in the nation on the way to a 10-win season last year. The program is also returning one of the nation's top quarterbacks in senior Dak Prescott.
Yet one of the biggest topics of the day when the Bulldogs took the stage Tuesday at Southeastern Conference media days?
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Coach Dan Mullen's choice of shoes.
Mullen said he was simply showing a little "swag" by wearing some Adidas Jeezy Boost 350 sneakers to go along with his suit. But it was telling that a fresh pair of popular footwear could partly overshadow a team that was among college football's best last season.
Mullen said he doesn't mind the seeming lack of respect. After six seasons in Starkville, he's become used to it.
"This is my seventh year coming here, and I think all seven years they've pretty much picked us to finish last in the West," Mullen said. "It's kind of like a tradition, I guess. We don't really worry much about that. I'm much more concerned with how we finish."
The Bulldogs are widely expected to finish near the bottom of the SEC's Western Division this fall despite last year's breakthrough season that included the program's first trip to the top of the national poll.
There are some legitimate reasons for that -- including that the Bulldogs return just four starters on both sides of the ball. It also didn't help that they lost three of their final four games last season.
But Mullen believes Prescott will provide plenty of leadership and that the team is more experienced than it appears because several second-stringers received ample playing time last season.
"I like that people think that (we're young), but the fact that we rotate, we play a lot of guys in the course of games. Guys have experience," Mullen said. "They've been on the stage. They've been in the moments. And they're going to be ready for this season as we move forward."
The Bulldogs' unquestioned star is Prescott. He was fantastic as a junior, throwing for 3,449 yards and running for 986 more while accounting for 41 touchdowns.
That performance has earned him considerable early hype as a Heisman Trophy contender, though it remains to be seen if he'll have the talent around him to make that happen. For his part, Prescott isn't concerned about outside perception.
"They don't see the people I work out with every day," Prescott said. "We have guys coming back that have played and started in big-time games. We have a chance, and our expectation for ourselves is not the same as everyone else's."