Mississippi State's four previous season openers under coach Dan Mullen have been laughers, with the Bulldogs beating overmatched opponents by an average of nearly 44 points.
Humor might be harder to find this Saturday.
Mississippi State faces No. 13 Oklahoma State at Reliant Stadium in Houston in the toughest opener of Mullen's tenure. The marquee matchup on a neutral field brings the potential for a galvanizing victory, but also the risk of a humbling loss.
Mullen said playing such a difficult opponent isn't necessarily a problem, but poses different challenges. In easier openers, he could slowly work freshmen into the playing rotation and in situations where they'd likely find success.
That's a luxury he won't have against the Cowboys. He estimated that ''six or seven'' freshmen would make the trip to Houston and many would be on the field regardless of the situation.
''It's a little harder in this game,'' Mullen said. ''This is what amounts to a big-time game right from day...