Mike Leach on tough Mississippi State schedule, which includes Georgia

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

In addition to the tough SEC West opponents that Mississippi State must face in its division, the Bulldogs also host defending champion Georgia in Starkville on Nov. 12 this season.

It’s no wonder that ESPN’s college football power index, which ranks FBS teams’ strength of schedule, ranks Mississippi State at No. 2, behind Auburn at No. 1.

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This will mark Leach’s third season at the helm, with the Bulldogs going 4-7 in his first season and improving to 7-6 in his second. From Leach’s perspective, though, there’s not much adjusting to do year in and year out, he said Tuesday at SEC Media Days.

“You just try to get better,” Leach said. “There’s not much to adjust. If you’re determined to improve your team, the best way to improve the team is improve yourself, then after that everybody gets on that page. If you’re constantly trying to improve yourself, trying to get better, trying to do the best you can, if you have full effort, eventually you can improve from that and set a new ceiling.

“… You try to improve. Most importantly, it’s important to do the best you can under all circumstances so that you are improving. That’s what you do. You just play the very best you can. … There’s not much to change. With regard to the SEC, it’s the most talented conference, I don’t think there’s any question about that. I mean, as far as coaching your team and winning games, being the best you can with what you have, it’s eerily similar to Iowa Wesleyan.”

Amid conference realignment and expansion, the landscape of college football is shifting, and that includes the SEC with Texas and Oklahoma set to join the conference in 2025.

Leach is especially familiar with those teams, having coached Texas Tech in the Big 12 from 2000-09. The Mississippi State coach said their addition will raise the level of competition, though the Bulldogs already have a difficult schedule on their hands.

But, he added, Texas and Oklahoma will experience a dramatic change in joining the SEC.

“I think they’re kind of already acclimated from the standpoint good teams play as hard as they can and try to improve their skills along the way,” Leach said. “So I think they’re certainly ready to do that. I think the competition level raised. Then from my standpoint, and I get asked that especially from the Texas and the Oklahoma people, from their standpoint I think it’s going to change things quite dramatically.

“From our standpoint, I mean, you guys have us as having the toughest schedule in the country. So that being the case, we can’t play everybody. So knock two of those guys off and add OU and Texas, and I probably gained about half a step I would think. I mean, the two most eastern teams in the West are the two Alabama schools, so send them east, and we have to play Texas and OU, and I probably gained a little on that.”