This week the No. 1 ranked Alabama Crimson Tide host the No. 11 division rival Mississippi State Bulldogs in Tuscaloosa, Ala. for what will be one of only four games to feature two ranked opponents.
While the Tide comes into the game dominating on both sides of the ball, ranked 14th in scoring offense (41 points per game) and first in scoring defense (8.29 points allowed per game), the Bulldogs aren't planning to lay down and roll over.
Last year Alabama won by 17 points, 24-7. The Bulldogs were 5-4 entering their matchup last year.
At 7-0 this time around, it seems a lot has changed—for the better.
Four players on Dan Mullen's squad that the Crimson Tide will have to prepare for to ensure against early upsets this season: running back LaDarius Perkins, quarterback Tyler Russell, cornerbacks Johnthan Banks and Darius Slay.
The Bulldogs junior running back is putting up numbers that the Tide will have to respect.
Perkins leads the SEC in total rushing yards with 724. Among in-conference running backs, he trails only Marcus Lattimore and Todd Gurley in rushing touchdowns with eight on the season.
To date, he is the only back in the nation to have scored at least one rushing touchdown in each game that his team has played.
Alabama's defense is the best in the nation against the run, yielding only 58.7 yards per game. However, in their game against Tennessee in Week 8, the Tide gave up 79 yards to a team that ranks only 57th nationally in rushing.
Considering that Bama has only played one ranked team (an overrated Michigan in Week 1) and a lot of fluff, expect Perkins to give their defense its first true test against the run.
Russell, a junior, is the prototypical quarterback. Standing at 6-foot 4-inches and 220 pounds, he has the size that most NFL teams covet.
Almost every bit as efficient as Alabama's AJ McCarron, both of whom are among only three QBs to have at least 15 touchdowns and no more than two interceptions, Russell is fourth in the SEC in quarterback rating and fifth in passing yards.
In his first three conference outings this year (Auburn, Kentucky and Tennessee), he has completed 66 passes at 62.8 percent for 782 yards, seven touchdowns and no interceptions.
While the Crimson Tide projects to be a far better opponent than any of those three teams, Russell does have the wide receiver Chad Bumphis and his running back, LaDarius Perkins to help him out.
So far, on the season, he and Bumphis have connected 29 times for 479 yards and six touchdowns.
Coupled with Perkins' running attack, Russell and the Mississippi State offense should strike Alabama with a balanced game plan.
Johnthan Banks / Darius Slay
This senior cornerback duo has combined for eight interceptions (four each), which ranks the two of them (alone) higher than 77 FBS teams.
Both are capable tacklers, with 33 and 23 total tackles respectively.
While both were selected to Phil Steele's midseason All-SEC team, Banks was also selected to the midseason All-American team.
The duo has combined for 15 pass deflections (nine and six respectively) and two fumble recoveries (one each). Additionally, Slay has one blocked kick and a touchdown.
The Mississippi State secondary, led by Banks and Slay, has held each of their last three opposing quarterbacks to season lows in passing yards. Their next target is McCarron.
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