Saban’s Tide Facing Experienced Bulldogs

One thing that has been made clear about Mississippi State this year is that the Bulldogs are a senior team – and that’s not even counting starting right tackle Justin Senior, who is a sophomore.

Alabama hosts No. 1 ranked Mississippi State at 2:30 p.m. CST Saturday in Bryant-Denny Stadium in a key game with both Southeastern Conerenece and national championship implications. CBS will televise the game.

The Crimson Tide of Coach Nick Saban is 8-1 overall and 5-1 in SEC games and ranked fifth in the most recent College Football Playoff Selection Committee poll. The Bulldogs are ranked first in that poll (and every other poll) with a 9-0 record overall, 5-0 in SEC games.

ESPN sports reporter Chris Lowe has determined that Mississippi State has 15 fifth-year seniors, 10 of them starters for the Bulldogs.

In his regular Wednesday meeting with SEC journalists, Saban said, “I think that is a huge benefit, and I do agree that in this day and age in college football, with all the juniors going out for the draft and things like that, it's very difficult to keep a team together for that long, to gain that kind of experience, that kind of maturity.

“The number of career starts that they have on offense and defense probably contributes to that to a large degree because they've had those guys in their program for a long time.

“They do a great job in their program of developing their players, and those guys have the knowledge and experience now to be even better players than they've ever been before. That contributes to them being consistently successful.”

According to Mississippi State, there are 23 Bulldogs who have a combined 233 starts on offense and 20 men with a combined 250 starts on defense.

Saban tends to give a pass to national reporters who ask ill-conceived questions. Beat reporters could only wonder how many ways the Tide coach would have shredded them for the question Spencer Tillman of CBS asked about the “tactical advantage” of signing a three-star player and developing him rather than signing a five-star who would head to the NFL early.

Saban said, “I don’t really know for sure.”

He added, “One of the big things in recruiting is your ability as a program to develop players regardless of how they come in and what their accolades are relative to how they get rated. I think that it's really, really important that you have a good program all the way around, personally, academically and athletically to be able to develop the players that you have, where you create value for them and they have a better chance to be successful in life because they were involved in the program.

“I think that's the key and I think the body of work kind of proves that out when you have a lot of guys that come out of the program and graduate and have success on and off the field.”

As to Mississippi State specifically, Saban called them a “very physical group.” He said that linebackers Bernardrick McKinney and Beniquez Brown “are big guys that are very physical, very instinctive, good players.

“Their front is very physical and they play blockers well.

“[They] play hard and they’re tough and physical. It’s going to be a real challenge for us to block their front seven.

“This is an outstanding team and a team. They’re difficult to score on.”

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