Alabama Crimson Tide: Mississippi State football

3 Up, 3 Down: Bama 38, Miss. State 7 

October, 28, 2012
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- A look at the good and bad from Saturday night's 38-7 beat down of No. 11 Mississippi State in Bryant-Denny Stadium.

1. McCarron on a roll: Mississippi State tried to load the box and dare AJ McCarron to throw. So he did. McCarron picked apart the Bulldogs vaunted secondary, tossing two touchdowns and no interceptions.
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- The big game is returning to Bryant-Denny Stadium.

The last time it was here? Nov. 5 of last year against LSU.

While the 11th-ranked Mississippi Bulldogs don't pose quite the same challenges as the Tigers did in 2011, the danger of a home upset lingers.

[+] EnlargeJohnthan Banks
AP Photo/Rogelio V. SolisThe Bulldogs were the last to pick off AJ McCarron -- in 2011. Could Johnthan Banks and Co. again thwart the QB's no-INTs streak?
"This is a difficult preparation on both sides of the ball," UA coach Nick Saban said. "Mississippi State's obviously a very good team. Anybody that's undefeated at this point in the season, ranked 11th in the BCS, has obviously earned their stripes."

Alabama hasn't lost to Mississippi State since 2007 and has won five of their last seven meetings. Still, UA cornerback Dee Milliner expects a challenge from the Bulldogs. Despite the lopsided record, he feels it has always been that way.

"It's going to be a competitive game coming in with both teams undefeated," he said. "Mississippi State, they always give us a great game each year, no matter what the record is. Just going to be a tough game. They like to do a lot with running the ball. They’re going to be aggressive. They're just like us. They like to be aggressive with things. It’ll be very competitive."

" Read about five storylines for the game Insider.

Alabama players to watch

1. S Robert Lester: Lester went down late in the game at Tennessee and hasn't looked quite the same this week during practice. How he recovers and competes against Mississippi State will be vital. His importance to the pass and rush defense cannot be understated.

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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- No. 1 Alabama returns to Bryant-Denny to host No. 11 Mississippi State on Saturday night. The Tide (7-0, 4-0 SEC) have won four in a row in the series and haven’t lost to the Bulldogs since 2007.

Here's five storylines for the game ...


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Home challenge awaits the Tide

October, 24, 2012
Alabama Crimson Tide fansKevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesFor whatever reason Alabama hasn't played as well in front of the home fans than it has away from Bryant-Denny Stadium.
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- It's not that Alabama isn't taking care of business at home, the No. 1-ranked Crimson Tide just aren't handling themselves in the same dominant ways. Inside of Bryant-Denny Stadium, the crimson and white have been undefeated but not unfettered.

Two of Alabama's most disappointing wins -- disappointing in the eyes of coach Nick Saban, that is -- have come at home. A 35-0 win over Western Kentucky drew the ire of the head coach, who pointed out more mistakes then successes. A 33-14 win a few weeks later over Ole Miss was the closest game the Tide have played in all season. The Rebels' uptempo, no-huddle offense made the UA defense look almost vulnerable.

With No. 11 Mississippi State scheduled to arrive in Tuscaloosa on Saturday night, the onus is on players to shore up their play in the home crimson tops and white shorts.

"This is really the first home game we've had where we're playing a team that is really a ranked team," Saban said. "We haven't played our best football at home. We've really played our best football on the road for whatever reasons. I've addressed that with the players, but I'm hopeful that we'll have the kind of excitement and enthusiasm in the stadium that will help our players from an emotional standpoint and also make it difficult for them. They are a no-huddle team again, so maybe we can affect their communication a little bit with some of the noise and inspiration that our fans can give our players."

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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Mississippi State is a different team this year. The Bulldogs' 7-0 record speaks to that, their No. 11 ranking in the BCS standings a testament to how far they've come.

The No. 1-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide know that. The team they thumped 24-7 in Starkville, Miss., last season was one with flaws. Tyler Russell hadn't yet earned his spot as the starting quarterback. LaDarius Perkins was but a scant change-of-pace tailback, an afterthought behind Vick Ballard. Jonathan Banks was just beginning to make a name for himself as arguably the top cornerback in the country.

The Bulldogs finished the 2011 season in the Music City Bowl, one game above .500.

[+] EnlargeMississippi State's Tyler Russell
Spruce Derden/US PRESSWIRE]Mississippi State's Tyler Russell has shown a lot of poise this season, says Alabama coach Nick Saban.
This season has been much kinder to the Bulldogs, thanks in part to a schedule that ranks 98th in the country based on past opposition. Mississippi State has faced only two winning teams, both from the Sun Belt.

But you can only play the games on your schedule, and Mississippi State has done that well. Perkins leads the SEC with 724 rushing yards, Russell is 26th in the country in passing efficiency and Banks is tied for sixth in the nation with four interceptions.

Alabama coach Nick Saban said he's noticed a change in the Bulldogs, starting with the offense as guided by Russell, one he called the most balanced UA has faced all year.

"Russell's a big, physical, athletic guy who has a really good arm," Saban said. "He can throw the ball down the field. This year he's shown a lot of poise and his experience, in getting the ball out of his hand quickly. They're a much, much better passing team than a year ago when he just played, sort of shared time and played some, started some. There's not really anything he doesn't do well in my opinion."

UA senior linebacker Nico Johnson said the Tide aren't taking the Bulldogs lightly, describing them as the "most complete year they've had since I've been here." He said much of the success traces back to the emergence of their quarterback.

"He's pretty much their leader," Johnson said. "They follow him. When he's rolling, they're rolling. We have to make it less comfortable for all of them."

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3 up, 3 down: Alabama opponents 

October, 7, 2012
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- In the wake of No. 1 Alabama's bye week, a look at the good and bad from Alabama's six remaining conference opponents.

1. Mississippi State: Who would have thought that Mississippi State would be tied atop the SEC West with Alabama through five games, and not LSU? Those who paid attention to the Bulldogs' schedule might have considered it.

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