SEC Teleconference Notebook: Nick Saban on Miss. St. Being the Top 4-5 Team

Barrett SalleeSEC Football Lead WriterNovember 13, 2013

Alabama head coach Nick Saban
Alabama head coach Nick SabanKevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Every Wednesday, the SEC's head coaches line up one by one and take questions from the media in 10-minute sessions. What was on the agenda this week? 

Alabama head coach Nick Saban shared his thoughts on just how good Mississippi State really is. Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema defended his players for making what an unnamed Florida player called a racial slur. And Georgia head coach Mark Richt discussed the prospect of going up against one of his former players, Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall.

Let's recap.

 

Nick Saban "Compliments" Mississippi State

Alabama cleared a major hurdle last week when it topped LSU 38-17 in Tuscaloosa. But there's a big test this week.

Alabama head coach Nick Saban
Alabama head coach Nick SabanKevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Well, "big" according to head coach Saban, anyway.

The 4-5 Bulldogs host the 9-0 Crimson Tide this week, and Saban doesn't want you to be fooled by the sub-.500 record of Dan Mullen's crew.

"Mississippi State, I think, has the best 4-5 team in the country," Saban said. "They've lost five games to Top 20 teams and played extremely well all year long."

Is that a knock against Mississippi State? On the surface, sure. No team wants to be 4-5. But it's more a case of Saban building up his opponent because he knows that perception equals reality in college football, and any way you can make yourself look better helps.

It also could be perceived as an inadvertent shot at some other SEC teams, as ESPN.com's Travis Haney points out.

Muschamp nods, drops head. RT @BarrettSallee Saban: "Mississippi State is probably the best 4-5 team in the country."

— Travis Haney (@TravHaneyESPN) November 13, 2013

Zing!

Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen (left) and Alabama head coach Nick Saban
Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen (left) and Alabama head coach Nick SabanAl Messerschmidt/Getty Images

 

Arkansas' Bret Bielema Stands By His Guy

Florida center Jon Harrison spoke with the media on Tuesday for the first time since being ejected from the Arkansas game on Oct. 5 for bumping a referee, and he shed some light on the reason he was so upset.

Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema
Arkansas head coach Bret BielemaWesley Hitt/Getty Images

According to Thomas Goldkamp of 247Sports.com, Harrison was angry because an unnamed Arkansas player used a racial slur toward him.

Bielema addressed the situation further on the teleconference.

"I remember the player who was ejected and the play that it happened on," Bielema said. "It was J. [Jarrett] Lake on the play that it happened on. I asked J. Lake, and he categorically denied anything of that nature."

Below is the video of the play in which Harrison was ejected. There's no way of knowing what exactly transpired, but now we know what each side says. That's likely as far as this story will get.

 

Georgia Doesn't Think Auburn is One-Dimensional

Auburn has looked mighty impressive in back-to-back road wins within the conference, toppling Arkansas 35-17 two weeks ago and following it up with a resounding 55-23 win over Tennessee Saturday afternoon. In those two games, Auburn threw a total of 15 passes and rushed for 677 yards and five touchdowns on the ground.

Georgia head coach Mark Richt
Georgia head coach Mark RichtSam Greenwood/Getty Images

It may seem like Auburn is one-dimensional, right?

Not according to Georgia head coach Richt.

"I don't think they're throwing the ball, because they don't have to throw the ball," Richt said. "I think they can throw the ball, and I think they can throw it well."

"They'll have a plan to do both, and if a team just can't slow them down running the ball and they keep moving the chains and scoring points, I don't think they're going to mess around throwing it too much if they don't have to."

Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn agrees with Richt's assessment.

"When you first start a game, there's a feeling-out process of how they're playing you and what you're successful with," Malzahn said. "After a couple of series, you get a feel [of the game]. If you're having success, you just keep doing what you're doing."

Malzahn isn't married to a totally unbalanced game plan but, if it works, why mess with it?

Auburn QB Nick Marshall
Auburn QB Nick MarshallRandy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

 

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.