When the sun goes down, the battle of unbeatens will commence at Bryant-Denny Stadium when an 11th-ranked and emotional Mississippi State team tries to knock off a 24-point favorite and No. 1 Alabama team.
The Bulldogs haven’t had this perfect of a record (7-0, 3-0 SEC) since 1999, but it also hasn’t lost to a team more times in its history than it has the Crimson Tide (74 losses).
Bama (7-0, 4-0) isn’t taking MSU lightly. In fact, linebacker Nico Johnson said this is the best Mississippi State team he’s seen in his four years.
“I don’t think they get the credit they deserve,” he said. “We’re going to come in with the mindset of they want to knock us off. So we’re going to try to get after them the best we can for a 60-minute game.”
Alabama is outscoring opponents 90-3 in the first quarter, so if they can get on the board early, that could deflate this passionate and pumped up Bulldogs squad.
Alabama head coach Nick Saban has been saying all week how this will be his team’s toughest challenge to date.
“Anybody that’s undefeated at this point in the season, ranked 11th in the BCS, has obviously earned their stripes,” he said.
Matchup: No. 1 Alabama (7-0, 4-0 SEC) vs. No. 11 Mississippi State (7-0, 3-0), 7:30 p.m. CT, ESPN
On the line: This would probably be the biggest upset in MSU history and give them national respect. It would propel them into the Top 10 and if they can keep it up through the rest of the season, maybe push them towards a BCS bowl. For Alabama, a loss and it’s likely the end of the road for a trip to Miami and also puts a sour taste in the team’s mouth a week before heading into Baton Rouge to take on psyched up LSU.
When Alabama has the ball…The Crimson Tide’s offense has been extremely balanced, rushing for an average of 219.4 yards per game while passing for 220.1. A.J. McCarron has yet to throw an interception in his last 239 pass attempts and receivers like Amari Cooper and Kevin Norwood are catching everything that comes their way. But if McCarron sees MSU cornerback Johnthan Banks cutting off the pass, he can just hand it off to Eddie Lacy or T.J. Yeldon, who have both rushed for well over 500 yards thus far.
When Mississippi State has the ball…Tyler Russell has been nothing but impressive this season. He’s one of just three quarterbacks in the country with 15 touchdown passes and less than two interceptions (he has one). He’s got a dangerous weapon out wide in Chad Bumphis, who’s caught 29 balls for 479 yards and six touchdowns this year. But if Alabama corner Dee Milliner is shutting him down, Russell can just hand it off to the SEC’s leading rusher LaDarius Perkins, who is averaging over 100 yards per game.
Prediction: It’s hard to imagine Alabama losing at home on homecoming to a program that’s only won this matchup 18 times in its history. The Tide has shut down pesky runners all season—Michigan’s Denard Robinson and Arkansas’ Knile Davis could only muster a combined 86 yards against Alabama’s top-ranked rush defense that’s holding opponents to 58.7 yards on the ground per game—so downhill runner Perkins will be facing the best defense he’s seen all year.
The Bulldogs are No. 1 with a plus-16 turnover margin and the Tide is tied for third with a plus-14 margin. If there was any game McCarron’s interception-free streak could end, it’s this one against top corner Banks.
However, again, it’s hard to imagine Alabama dropping this one.
Alabama 31, Mississippi State 13
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