The matchup of #1-ranked and unbeaten Mississippi State at #4 Alabama will indeed air in the league’s prime broadcast slot. CBS finally did what had been expected all along, picking this SEC West matchup for the 2:30 kickoff at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
The network had exercised a second and last ‘six day option’ last Monday before deciding it’s November 15 assignments. Waiting another week did allow CBS to avoid pre-slotting anyone who might have been upset yesterday. Now they have what looms in most all minds as the showdown for the Western Division lead and eventually title.
Alabama outlasted Louisiana State in their annual brawl, keeping the 8-1, 5-1 SEC Crimson Tide right on Mississippi State’s heels. The Bulldogs are 9-0, the best start to a season in program history, and 5-0 SEC. They were able to tune-up or in several player cases rest-up for the coming trip at the expense of Tennessee-Martin, 45-16.
Easing CBS’ decision was Auburn’s unlikely home loss to Texas A&M, which has turned the Western Division into essentially but not entirely two-team race. And those two teams collide in Tuscaloosa this Saturday.
A MSU victory there, something not scored since 2006 when both programs were very different, would leave the Bulldogs at least two whole games’ worth of margin over the rest of the West with as many games remaining; Vanderbilt at home November 22, and at Ole Miss November 29.
Beating the Bulldogs would even Alabama up in the West standings and also give them the head-to-head tiebreak, as their lone league loss is at Ole Miss. Nothing would be entirely locked-up since the Tide will be hosting Auburn in the November 29 Iron Bowl, and State still has the Egg Bowl that same day. The difference now is the respective rivalries will have Tiger and Rebel teams with at least two league losses at best and aren’t likely now to have Division contention to play for.
Also, by taking the MSU-Alabama matchup, CBS has used its last allotted selection of Alabama for the regular season. However that does not mean the Egg Bowl automatically receives the afternoon prime slot; the over-air network can deal with ESPN to take the Iron Bowl if they wish.
What winning this weekend would certainly do is give Saturday’s survivor a long leg-up in the next round of College Football Playoff rankings. The third listing by the selection committee comes out Tuesday at 6:30, and in both previous rankings Mississippi State has been first. Not that CFP rankings have any more meaning than polls at this point of course; only the final four-team selections, seedings, and sitings for the semifinal round matter.
But for pure entertainment purposes, these weekly releases deliver. So do the national rankings, which kept Mississippi State at #1 in both the Associated Press and Coaches polls. This is the first Bulldog team ever to reach #1 and now they’ve held position for five weeks. Though State didn’t play especially great yesterday, the sixty AP voters gave the Dogs even more favor this week with 48 first place votes compared to 45 last week. The only other major conference unbeaten, Florida State, received the rest of the first-place ballots.
Though another network won’t show the game, ESPN is adding even greater import if that’s possible. They have chosen State@Alabama for their College Game Day morning show, airing from the Tuscaloosa campus 8:00-11:00am. This season saw Mississippi State earn attention from CGD for the first time with a broadcast from the Junction prior to the Auburn game.
Make that, a win over top-five-ranked Auburn, televised by CBS in the prime slot. So even if not playing out at the same address, the Bulldogs welcome opportunity for a road game repeat of sorts.