TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — After they knocked off then-No. 4 Texas A&M, Mississippi State got Alabama’s full attention.
This initially looked like a game the Crimson Tide could stroll in and easily win. But Mississippi State’s victory over a potential playoff team made Alabama respect the Bulldogs even more.
“I think it does, definitely. I know Mississippi State’s had a lot of close games that they’ve lost,” Alabama cornerback Marlon Humphrey said. “To beat Texas A&M that must mean they’re doing something right. I think that actually might help our mindset, just to know that they’re a pretty good team. They’ve got as many scholarships as we have, so they’ve got good players, too. You just can’t take anybody lightly.”
Top-ranked Alabama (9-0, 5-0 SEC) hosts Mississippi State (4-5, 2-3) on Saturday at noon ET on ESPN.
Mississippi State jumped on Texas A&M early with two first quarter touchdowns. The Bulldogs built on its lead in the second quarter, adding two more scores before halftime.
Alabama can’t let something like that happen. The Crimson Tide need to shut down Mississippi State’s offense early, and not let them get rolling or confident.
Mississippi State is going to be extremely confident coming into this game. The Bulldogs just knocked off a team that was ranked No. 4 in the first playoff rankings two weeks ago.
Alabama can’t let the Bulldogs hang around.
“I think it’s really important for our guys to stay focused on the task at hand,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “Mississippi State’s really playing well now. They had a great win last week against a good Texas A&M team and played really well. I think they’re playing their best football of the season.
“Coming off an emotional game for us, we need to put that behind us and really stay focused on what we need to do to try to play well and execute in this game.”
In nearly every major statistical category, Mississippi State ranks 6th or lower in the SEC.
But the Bulldogs field the No. 4 rushing offense in the league.
Mississippi State averages 226.89 rushing yards per game and 5.35 yards per carry.
Quarterback Nick Fitzgerald ran for 182 yards and two touchdown while running back Aeris Williams ran for a career-high 140 yards against Texas A&M.
“Dan (Mullen) has done a great job there for a lot of years,” Saban said. “We’ve always had some really difficult games and that will be our expectation in this game.”