It’s been so long since Mississippi State beat LSU in football, The Streak seems to stretch out like a long, flat road to the horizon.
No bends. No breaks. Just heartbreak for the Bulldogs year after year and victory mileposts for the Tigers.
Fourteen times the Tigers and Bulldogs have played in the 21st century. Fourteen times LSU has won.
Sometimes it’s been close, like in 2009 when LSU needed Chad Jones’ punt return and last-minute deflected pass to escape Starkville a 30-26 winner.
Often, it’s been it’s a blowout, like in 2007, when six LSU interceptions paved the way to a 45-0 rout (I can still see Craig Steltz’s hair flowing as he ran back another pick. Long may it wave).
Few players on either team knew enough of the world around them to tell you much about the last time State beat LSU back in 1999. By one point. With one of the best State teams of the last two decades. Over the team that got Gerry DiNardo fired.
On a controversial play.
Go back to the start of Southeastern Conference divisional play in 1992 and LSU’s dominance runs even deeper. The Tigers’ only loss since 1991 was that 17-16 squeaker in Starkville.
But nothing lasts forever. This, so many college football observers have opined, sniffing a trendy pick in the wind, is a year when LSU is vulnerable with its many inexperienced hands. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs are more experienced, arguably more talented than they’ve been, and certainly a little ticked off.
The Tigers could be overconfident and maybe they are, though as usual for most college football players not named Jameis Winston they’re saying all the right things.
Such is the pride and respect that courses through the Southeastern Conference that veterans like senior defensive end Jermauria Rasco have tried to steel the preparation of the Tigers’ many young contributors to an even stiffer challenge from the Bulldogs.
LSU rallied to beat Wisconsin team in week one, a team that’s still ranked (No. 19) while Mississippi State is still riding the RV (receiving votes).
But at LSU, they know these Bulldogs can bite.
“ ‘SEC play is here,’ ” has been Rasco’s message. “ ‘Things are fixing to get real.’
“ ‘Wisconsin was a great game. But it’s the SEC now.’ ”
And in the SEC, team’s rarely beat each other year after year after year.
Of course, as Kentucky found out last week at Florida, sometimes they do.
Earlier this week, State coach Dan Mullen trained all his powers of positive denial on The Streak and tried — Poof! — to make it disappear.
Word is, Mullen will saw a cheerleader in two at halftime and bring her back together again for an encore.
“All that matters is this week,” Mullen said. “Every game that’s ever been played there has no impact on this game. Every game that we’ve played against them has no impact on this game. Every game we’ll play against them in the future has no impact on this game. It’s all about this week, our focus and our execution.”
Mullen is right. All the departed LSU players who helped doom State to The Streak over the past 14 years, and all the Bulldogs players yet to take the field, don’t have a physical, tangible impact on Saturday’s proceedings.
But the mind is another matter. In the back of every LSU and Mississippi State noggin lurks knowledge of The Streak.
For the Tigers, maybe The Streak will add an extra dollop of confidence they will need to subdue a dangerous, Dak Prescott-led team. For the Bulldogs, maybe The Streak will color their mindset with a tint of doubt.
Or, perhaps, they will use The Streak as a crusade. Maybe the Bulldogs are simply so tired of losing to the Tigers they will snap The Streak in two, leaving the splintered pieces behind on the Tiger Stadium turf.
But past results are the best indicator of future events. Brave talk aside, it’s that mountain State must first climb if it’s going to have a chance to knock LSU off.
Follow Scott Rabalais on Twitter: @RabalaisAdv.