October 27, 2012

Alabama preview

No. 11 Mississippi State is gearing up for what could be considered the biggest game in school history tonight at 7:30 p.m.

The Bulldogs are looking to improve to 8-0 for just the second time in school history and knock off the defending national champions and top-ranked Alabama on the road.

MSU has won its last nine games dating back to last season while the Crimson Tide hold the nation's longest winning streak at 11 games.

The Bulldogs have struggled historically against Alabama in their 96 previous meetings with the twin state rivalry dating back to 1896. The Tide hold a 75-18-3 lead in the "Battle of Highway 82" including claiming the previous four contests. Alabama has a 30-10 record in the series in Tuscaloosa.

Last year Alabama held a 10-0 lead heading into the fourth quarter in Starkville and finished with a 24-7 victory. Eddie Lacy rushed for two scores while the Crimson Tide defense held State to just 131 yards of total offense. The Bulldogs only touchdown came on a 12-yard pass from Tyler Russell to Chris Smith on their opening drive of the fourth quarter cutting the deficit to 17-7.

Mississippi State is coming off a 45-3 homecoming win over Middle Tennessee State last week. The Bulldogs led just 10-3 at halftime but turned it on with five second half touchdowns. Russell threw for three touchdowns and completed passes to 10 different receivers.

Dan Mullen's squad is averaging 416.9 yards and 36.7 points per game. Mississippi State, who is 3-0 in Southeastern Conference play, has shown a balanced attack of 235.9 passing yards and 181 rushing yards an outing.

Russell has completed 60-percent of his throws for 1,573 yards, one touchdown and one interception on the year.

LaDarius Perkins is the SEC's leading rusher gaining 103.4 yards per game. Perkins has carried 125 times for 724 yards and scored eight touchdowns including at least one in every game. He is averaging 5.8 yards per carry.

Chad Bumphis is the Bulldogs top receiver hauling in 29 passes for 479 yards and six scores on the year.

MSU's defense is allowing 327.7 yards and 14.4 points per game. Their opponents are gaining 188.6 yards through the air and 139.1 yards on the ground. The Bulldogs lead the nation with a +17 turnover ratio and have forced 21 turnovers on the year with 12 interceptions and nine fumble recoveries.

Freshman linebacker Benardrick McKinney is State's leading tackler with 55 stops on the year. Sophomore defensive end Preston Smith has 3.5 sacks on the season while senior cornerbacks Johnthan Banks and Darius Slay each have snagged four interceptions.

Freshman kicker Devon Bell has converted 9-of-14 on field goals with a long of 42-yards. Junior punter Baker Swedenburg is averaging 40.6 yards per punt with a long of 54 yards and has pinned 11 inside the red zone.

Banks is averaging 9.8 yards on punt returns while Jameon Lewis is gaining 25-yards on kickoff returns.

Alabama is also 7-0 on the year and have a half-game lead on the Bulldogs at 4-0 in league play. The Tide are coming off a 44-13 win over Tennessee on the road. Alabama rolled up 539 yards against the Volunteers with AJ McCarron completing 17-of-22 passing for 306 yards and four touchdowns.

Nick Saban's offense is averaging 439.6 yards and 41 points per game. The Crimson Tide are also balanced gaining 219.5 yards on the ground and throwing for 220.1 yards.

McCarron has connected on 68.8-percent of his throws for 1,476 yards, 16 touchdowns and no interceptions.

Lacy leads the Alabama rushing attack with 570 yards and seven scores on 99 attempts. He is averaging 81.4 yards per game and 5.8 yards a carry.

Freshman Amari Cooper has caught 28 balls for 425 yards and five touchdowns to top the Tide receiving corps.

Alabama's defense is statistically the best in the nation. The Crimson Tide are only allowing 195.6 yards and 8.3 points per game. They are surrendering just 58.7 yards rushing and 136.9 yards passing to their opposition.

Junior linebacker C.J. Mosley leads the team with 58 tackles on the year while sophomore linebacker Adrian Hubbard has notched 3.5 sacks. Mosley, Vinnie Sunseri, Dee Milliner, Robert Lester, HaHa Clinton-Dix and Deion Belue all have a pair of interceptions each.

Senior kicker Jeremy Shelley is a perfect 8-of-8 on field goals with a long of 38-yards. Junior punter Cody Mandell is averaging 41.6 yards per punt with a long of 59-yards.

Sophomore Christion Jones handles most of the return duties for Alabama gaining 30.3 yards on kickoff returns including one touchdown while averaging 11.7 yards on punt returns.

Tonight's game will be televised on ESPN with Brad Nessler, Todd Blackledge and Holly Rowe on the call.

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