Mississippi State Next For Alabama

Stop me if you've heard this one. "Alabama hasn't played anyone." The big test is always coming, and thus far the Crimson Tide has been able to handle it. To be sure, the Crimson Tide benefited from some bad injury luck, Arkansas and Missouri not having their starting quarterbacks when they played Bama. Regardless, drama has not been the theme of Tide football games this season.

Alabama is coming off a 44-13 victory over Tennessee, the Crimson Tide's most storied rival. And the Volunteers had their quarterback, much-acclaimed Tyler Bray. Nonetheless, Tennessee now has a losing record and the Vols haven't won a Southeastern Conference game.

When the 2012 SEC schedules were announced, it looked like a pretty tough patch for Bama. The Tide was opening the season against eighth-ranked Michigan, and although Alabama handed the Wolverines a 41-14 loss, Michigan is now being touted as the likely Big Ten representative in the Rose Bowl. The Tide was going to have to go to Missouri and Tennessee on back-to-back weekends. Ole Miss was expected to be better, and that has proved to be the case.

To date, Alabama has been impressive in dispatching of the first seven opponents and has been rewarded (for what it's worth midway through the season) with a number one national ranking.

Another thing that looked likely when the 2012 SEC schedule was examined was that Mississippi State had a very good chance to come into the Alabama game undefeated. That game is this week, at 7:30 p.m. CDT Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium. ESPN will televise the game.

The Bulldogs have a 7-0 record, including a 3-0 mark in conference games. But what would detractors of Bama say about State's schedule? Their conference wins have been over Auburn (zero SEC wins), Kentucky (zero SEC wins), and Tennessee (zero SEC wins). The Bulldogs non-conference wins have been over Jackson State, Troy, South Alabama, and Middle Tennessee.

The only common opponent is Tennessee. Mississippi State won by 10 points, 41-31, in Starkville. Bama won by 31 points in Knoxville.

This was the sixth consecutive win for Alabama in the Tide-Vols series. Bama had an 11-game winning streak, 1971-8!, and a seven-game winning streak, 1986-92. After the 95th meeting of the two most famous names in Southern college football, Bama leads the series by 49-38-7.

Considering the current winning strteak, it is not coincidental that Alabama Coach Nick Saban is in his sixth season in Tuscaloosa. In that time the Crimson Tide has won 62 of 74 games (five wins were vacated by the NCAA for a violation that occurred prior to Saban's watch).

One reason for Alabama success is the incredible Tide defense. This season Bama opponents have started 85 drives. On 42 of those (49.4 per cent) the opponent has gone three plays and out.

Saban puts "stopping the run" at the top of his measurements for success. Dating back to the 2005 season, Bama has allowed only 10 opponents to have a man rush for 100 or more yards. That's best in the nation.

Alabama had allowed only 3.3 yards per rush going into the Tennessee game. The Vols averaged only 2.9 per carry.

Saban also wants his players to be relentless.

In Alabama's win over Tennessee, freshman wide receiver Amari Cooper had seven pass receptions for a Bama freshman record 162 yards with two touchdowns. Although he caught two passes while going out of bounds and two at or near the goalline, Cooper gained 40 yards after his receptions. (The marks would have been considerably better except for an illegal formation – five men in the backefield – on a play where Cooper caught a pass and raced 30 yards through defenders to a touchdown, only to have the play nullified. His seven catches produced six first downs.

Fellow freshman T.J. Yeldon, a tailback, rushed 15 times for 129 yards, his third 100-yard rushing game in his first season. He had two touchdowns and five runs for first downs. Yeldon had 74 of his yards after first contact.

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