HOOVER | Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen enters the fall coming off three straight winning seasons and seeking a fourth straight bowl trip with the Bulldogs.
Ending the season by losing five of its final six games, however, left Mississippi State with a flat finish to an 8-5 campaign that concluded with a loss to rival Ole Miss and a Gator Bowl loss to Northwestern.
"What we've tried to do at Mississippi State is to build a program that can consistently win," Mullen said on Wednesday at SEC Media Days.
Mullen expects the way last season ended to provide motivation.
"I think it changes the sense of urgency for some of the guys," he said. "There are guys who have been around our program and used to winning. ... I think that was a learning point for the guys on our team on how to handle adversity."
Mullen, who has talked in the past about building MSU into a national championship program, said he aspires to take the Bulldogs to the SEC Championship Game.
"You ask any coach who comes in here and that's their goal, to be in Atlanta in December," Mullen said.
The Bulldogs open the season at Oklahoma State, and have road games against Auburn, South Carolina, Texas A&M and Arkansas in league play. Mississippi State will host LSU, Kentucky, Alabama and Ole Miss in conference and play home non-conference games against Alcorn State, Troy and Bowling Green.
"To play an opening game like Oklahoma State brings a lot of energy and urgency to training camp," Mullen said.
Mississippi State returns senior quarterback Tyler Russell, who enters 2013 one touchdown shy of the school record, among six offensive starters who are back.
"He understands our offense, understands what we're trying to accomplish," Mullen said.
The Bulldogs have six starters back on defense, including sophomore linebacker Benardrick McKinney, who earned Freshman All-America honors last season.
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Deal ends 08.31.13