2. Kansas State
3. Notre Dame
8. South Carolina
9. Florida State
Mississippi State still could have a special football season, but the Bulldogs discovered Saturday night that they were on par with the rest of the Southeastern Conference against top-ranked Alabama.
The previously undefeated Bulldogs fell and fell quickly inside Bryant-Denny Stadium, as the Crimson Tide jumped out to a 21-0 lead in the first 18 minutes and rolled to a 38-7 victory. Alabama improved to 8-0 overall and 5-0 in the SEC, and the Crimson Tide have won their five league games by the average score of 42-9.
"They came out ready," Mississippi State cornerback Johnthan Banks said. "They were prepared for us. Whatever we did on defense, they had an answer for it. I tip my hat to those guys."
Banks, considered among the premier cornerbacks in the conference, was beaten by Kenny Bell for a 57-yard touchdown late in the first quarter that capped a 96-yard drive for the Tide. Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron notched a second scoring pass early in the second quarter on a 9-yarder to tight end Michael Williams, and the junior wound up 16-of-23 passing for 209 yards.
McCarron, who is now at 258 consecutive attempts without an interception, suffered a bruised back and left the game. Alabama coach Nick Saban said he could have returned and that he would be fine for this week's trip to LSU.
The Crimson Tide will head to Baton Rouge ranked No. 1 in the BCS standings and with several imposing statistics intact:
• Alabama is outscoring opponents 104-3 in the first quarter.
• The Tide have scored at least 20 first-half points in every game this season after tallying 24 against Mississippi State.
• Alabama has scored at least 30 points in every game so far, a program first for eight games deep into a season.
"We have a tremendous amount of respect for Mississippi State, and I think it was important for us to get off to a good start," Saban said. "We had the right mental energy and the right physical energy to play in the game, and I was really pleased with how we competed."
Alabama tailback Eddie Lacy was held to 26 yards on 10 carries, his worst output as a starter, and the Crimson Tide allowed a 97-yard drive in the third quarter before snuffing it out with safety Robert Lester's interception of Tyler Russell. What irked Saban, however, was a touchdown yielded in the final five minutes by his backup defense.
"I got upset with the backup players, because we can play better than that," he said. "It's not about shutting anybody out. It's about playing your best football."
This week's game at LSU will be televised by CBS in prime time. The Tigers were off this past weekend after improving to 7-1 with a 24-12 win at Texas A&M on Oct. 20.
Since Saban got to Alabama in 2007, he is 3-3 against LSU coach Les Miles, pulling even with the 21-0 triumph over the Tigers in January's BCS championship.
"I think this is a very quality Alabama team that compares with any," Miles said last week. "They are very well-prepared, and they look like the Alabama teams we've played in the past."