It doesn't get much bigger than a key BCS and SEC battle between Mississippi State and Alabama this Saturday.
Think of the selling points this game has. Two undefeated teams. Two schools sitting atop the SEC West. The potential for a season-altering upset of the top-ranked team in the nation. And all of it in prime time.
It's enough to make the average college football fan giggle a little bit. Just keep the giggle to yourself. Under control?
Good. Let's preview one of the premier games in an excellent week of college football action.
Where: Bryant Denny Stadium, Tuscaloosa, AL
When: Saturday, October 27 at 8:30 p.m. ET
Watch: ESPN; WatchESPN
Betting Line: Alabama (-23.5), according to Bet Online
Mississippi State Injuries (via USA Today)
None to Report
Alabama Injuries (via USA Today)
DL LaMichael Fanning, Disciplinary, Questionable
Will Alabama take Mississippi State too lightly a week before the key clash between the Crimson Tide and LSU? Can the Bulldogs pull off the upset and knock the unanimous top team in the nation off its pedestal?
Huge, for both teams. Each side is fighting to win the SEC West, the SEC title after that and either a shot at a national championship or a major bowl. A loss would seriously derail those hopes for both teams.
What They're Saying
Mississippi State has a turnover differential of plus-2.43 per game this year, tops in college football. Alabama is pretty solid in that regard as well, and the team that wins the turnover battle will have a major leg up in this contest.
Chase Goodbread from the Tuscaloosa News has more:
Defensively, MSU has forced 21 turnovers—an average of three per game—which happens to be the weekly goal for the University of Alabama defense.
"We have a goal—three a game—and if we don't meet that goal, we don't meet it," said UA linebacker Nico Johnson. "But we're going to come in try to create turnovers and give our offense a better chance to go down and score."
Alabama, for its part, ranks No. 3 in the nation with a turnover margin of +2.0. Quarterback AJ McCarron has yet to throw an interception, and UA has lost six fumbles. Defensively, Alabama has forced 20 turnovers, just one less than MSU.
Ball security is always a major factor in any game. It takes on an even greater importance in this one.
Mississippi State Player to Watch: LaDarius Perkins, Running Back
All Perkins has done this season is lead the SEC in rushing yards with 724 and add eight touchdowns for good measure. And if he can have any success running the ball against Alabama, Mississippi State is going to have a shot to pull off the upset.
That's going to be easier said than done, of course. Alabama is allowing just 58.7 rushing yards per game, tops in the nation. As usual, they are stacked in the front seven.
But Mississippi State has to be able to run the ball and maintain a balanced offense if they have any chance of beating the Crimson Tide. Perkins may not be a big back, but he'll be carrying a heavy burden on his shoulders Saturday night.
Alabama Player to Watch: AJ McCarron, Quarterback
The Crimson Tide do just about everything right. They've allowed the fewest points (8.3) and yards (195.6) per game in the nation. They have the 20th-ranked rushing game, and they score 41 points per game.
And though the passing game doesn't put up huge yardage numbers, it is incredibly efficient. Quarterback AJ McCarron is completing 68.8 percent of his passes and has thrown 16 touchdowns without a single interception this year.
Against an opportunistic Mississippi State defense, he'll need to keep that ratio spotless. If Alabama wins this game, it will probably be due to a stout defense and solid running game. But if they lose, you can bet it will be because McCarron and the Crimson Tide offense lost the turnover battle.
Key Matchup: Alabama Against Itself
Let's be honest here—Alabama is the better team in this football game. Yes, Mississippi State is undefeated and ranked No. 11 in the country, but nobody actually thinks they'll pull off the upset.
I'm guessing that includes Alabama's players.
The most dangerous thing the Crimson Tide can do is look past Mississippi State. You couldn't totally blame them if they did—they're at home, they're 23.5-point favorites, they've been told all season they're the best team without question in college football and they have LSU on the schedule next week.
This is a Nick Saban football team, so I don't expect a letdown. But I wouldn't be shocked if this game turns out to be closer than expected, either.
While Ryan Lochte is predicting an Auburn win, I really like Alabama in this game. Shocking, I know. While neither team has entered the meat of its schedule, and we don't truly know how good they are, Alabama looks like one of the best teams we've seen in recent memory. If they have a weakness, I haven't seen it.
The Crimson Tide win at home, 30-14.
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