Mississippi State football ‘at full strength’ as ReliaQuest Bowl vs. Illinois nears


STARKVILLE — A handful of Mississippi football players have run out of eligibility, opted not to spend an extra season at school, or are set to declare early for the 2023 NFL Draft .

But that doesn’t stop them from meeting Bulldogs again.

Star cornerback Emmanuel Forbes’ selection to play in Monday’s ReliaQuest Bowl against Illinois in Tampa, Fla., benefits MSU’s chances of winning nine games of the season, the ninth time in show history. increase.

Head coach Zach Arnett says the Bulldogs (8-4, 4-4) Southeastern Conference will be “going all out” on the health side ahead of Monday’s game at 11am at Raymond James Stadium. Said he was.

“We hope everyone on the trip will be able to play,” said Arnett.

Indeed, MSU’s offense is limited by the transfer portal exits of several key players, such as wide receiver Lara Thomas and running back Dillon Johnson, who are no longer with the team.

But that’s the life of college football these days, and the Bulldogs haven’t been hit harder than any other team.

“This is the reality we are all facing,” Arnett said of Portal.

The draft started recently because players don’t think they need to risk their health and money-making potential any more.

Illinois has been hit hard by several such decisions. Among them is the star ousted chief Chase Brown. I have decided to withdraw from Monday’s game.

It was a practice last year derided as “selfish” by the late Mississippi State coach Mike Leach, and the Bulldogs are due to play on Monday. However, according to Arnett and MSU, there was no question of finishing the season.

Forbes and those who had reasons to miss the contest, including safe-haven Colin Duncan, who also declared a draft, apparently made their decision before Leach’s death.

“I know most of them expressed that they were playing before Manager Leach’s clearly unfortunate incident,” Arnett said. , I think it speaks to the players who like to play football, the players who want to play for each other, the other players in the locker room, and I think it said a lot of those guys individually. think.

“They’re Mississippi guys. Line them up, they want to play with their teammates, they want to finish the season with them. Thank you for what you have done for your program.”

Now it’s up to whoever chooses to stay to end the year in the right way.

The win allows MSU to record its first nine-win season since 2017, and the Bulldogs aren’t going to take Monday’s game lightly.

“It’s definitely better to win than lose in the offseason, right?” Arnett said. “As much fun as I had on these bowl trips, I will always remember how it ended.”

Theo DeRosa reports on sports in Mississippi for The Dispatch. Follow @Theo_DeRosa on Twitter.

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