published Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012

Alabama, Miss. State match 7-0 records

  • photo
    Alabama linebacker Nico Johnson (35) and the top-ranked Crimson Tide face another 7-0 team this week in Mississippi State, who Alabama coach Nick Saban said would be by far his team's best opponent so far.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

TIDE, TAKE THREE

Three tidbits regarding top-ranked Alabama entering this week's game against Mississippi State:

1. Since the start of the 2009 season, Alabama has turned the ball over just 44 times in 47 games, or 0.94 a game.

2. AJ McCarron is now at 239 consecutive passes without an interception, but he still has a ways to go to catch former Kentucky quarterback Andre Woodson's SEC mark of 325.

3. The Crimson Tide continue to lead the nation in the four major statistical categories defensively, and they have allowed opponents only 12 trips to the red zone in seven games.

Alabama football coach Nick Saban said Monday that Mississippi State is "no doubt" the best team his top-ranked Crimson Tide will have played as of Saturday.

Not that Bulldogs coach Dan Mullen feels any differently.

"Alabama will be the best team we've played so far, but I guess anybody that plays them will say that since they're the best team in the country," Mullen said. "Our kids have been through some different tests. They've faced the adversity of success, and they've faced the adversity on the field of being put in some rough situations when we had to step up and make some plays.

"I feel like they'll be ready for the environment we're going to head into on Saturday night."

Bryant-Denny Stadium will house two 7-0 teams this weekend, Alabama holding that record for the fourth time in five years. Mississippi State, however, is 7-0 for only the second time since the formation of the Southeastern Conference in 1933.

The Bulldogs are 3-0 in SEC play, notching double-digit triumphs over teams -- Auburn, Kentucky and Tennessee -- with a combined league mark of 0-14.

"For them to win nine straight games [dating back to last season] speaks volumes for the job Coach Mullen has done there," Saban said. "They have a very, very good offensive team and probably will be one of the most balanced offenses that we've faced all year. Defensively, they are one of the most difficult teams to score on in the country."

Mississippi State swept its not-so-taxing nonconference schedule of Jackson State, Troy, South Alabama and Middle Tennessee. After blasting the Blue Raiders 45-3 this past weekend, Bulldogs junior tailback LaDarius Perkins said, "I don't care about people giving us respect or not. We're 7-0, and we keep moving forward."

The Crimson Tide and Bulldogs mirror each other in many ways.

Mississippi State leads the nation in turnover ratio at a plus-2.43 a game, having grabbed 12 interceptions and nine fumbles, while Alabama is tied for third at 2.00, having snatched 13 interceptions and seven fumbles. The Bulldogs have lost just four turnovers all year, two fewer than the Crimson Tide.

The two starting quarterbacks -- Alabama's AJ McCarron and MSU's Tyler Russell -- define efficiency, having combined for 31 touchdowns and one interception.

"He's playing with confidence," Tide linebacker Nico Johnson said of Russell. "He's pretty much their go-to leader, and when he's rolling, they're rolling. We have to go in and affect him early."

Another similarity shared by these teams is the stretch run, as both the Crimson Tide and Bulldogs have to face LSU and Texas A&M in the two ensuing weeks.

"At this time of the season, it's like you're running a 100-meter race," Saban said. "You get to 70 meters, and there are 30 meters to go, and a lot of people are close. People are chomping at your heels, but you've got to be able to finish the race."

So that's why

Ever since arriving at LSU before the 2000 season, Saban has maintained a policy of not allowing true freshmen to talk with the media. He explained why Monday.

"I was at Michigan State when Plaxico Burress was a freshman," Saban said. "We're going to play Michigan at Michigan, which is the biggest game of the year. I let freshmen talk to the media, and he said going down there will be like taking candy from a baby.

"He just about got killed. They tried to kill him for 60 minutes, and we didn't win the game."

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.

about David Paschall...

David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...

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