With LSU taking a well-deserved break in Week 9, Alabama still has to deal with Mississippi State this Saturday before they travel to Baton Rouge next weekend to square off with LSU.
But, how much of a threat do the Bulldogs really present to the 7-0 Tide, and will this game be so “easy peasy lemon squeezy” that it's actually more of a bye week than a hello Saturday?
Honestly, it seems beyond harsh to stamp Mississippi State’s helmets with “gimme win,” but when you peel back the layers of tonight’s game in Tuscaloosa, it becomes much more complicated than just saying “it's two undefeated SEC West squads battling for all the marbles.”
Though you certainly can’t take anything away from the Bulldogs' 7-0 start, when you compare apples to apples, it just isn’t the same animal as the Tide’s perfect run in 2012.
Beyond that, one of these teams is both presently and historically the better football product—across the board.
To illustrate the first point, let’s take a look at who each of these teams have played during their perfect journey to Week 9.
Alabama has played and beaten seven squads who combine for a 24-25 record (48.98 percent) thus far in 2012, while Mississippi State’s six FBS opponents are only 15-28 (34.88 percent).
Furthermore, the Bulldogs have only played two teams this year who currently have a winning record, and those two teams are Troy and Middle Tennessee (both from the Sun Belt).
Even more alarming is the fact that MSU has only played three BCS foes in 2012.
So, while you can argue that Alabama hasn’t necessarily played its hardest opening slate in years, the Tide’s stats and wins come via the backdrop of a higher level of competition.
And speaking of the number trail, the Tide’s stats trump the Bulldogs' in every major category,1 and this despite the fact that they’ve played more difficult opponents.
To get a taste of the mismatches tonight, we’ll see Mississippi State’s No. 47 rush offense versus the Tide’s No. 1 ranked rushing defense.
Then it will be Alabama’s No. 20 ranked rushing attack taking on the Bulldogs’ No. 48 ranked rushing D.
How about the Tide’s No. 2 ranked pass defense against MSU’s No. 55 ranked passing attack?
Beyond all the numbers associated with the 2012 season, it’s also prudent to take a look backwards at history to put tonight’s game into perspective.
The last time that the Bulldogs beat Alabama in Tuscaloosa was in 2006, and the last time that MSU bested the Tide at all was in 2007.
Also of note, Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen has never beaten Alabama, and other than this season’s 28-10 win over a questionable Auburn squad, he’s never beaten an SEC West foe other than Ole Miss.
Finally, if you’re looking for another angle as to why this game is not a potential blowout, what about the very valid concept of Alabama overlooking Mississippi State for LSU in Week 10?
Well, when Nick Saban is your coach it’s not likely that you’ll overlook anything: a game, a possession, a down or a touch.
Love him or hate him, Saban is currently the best coach in college football, and the odds of him fielding a flat team that is looking past the Bulldogs for the Tigers are simply not good.
Yes, LSU has a bye in Week 9 before its super-special-double-deluxe rematch with Alabama in Week 10, but the Tigers may not be the only team who has got it easy this Saturday.