While No. 2 Alabama has been a thorn in the side of everyone in the Southeastern Conference under Nick Saban, they’ve especially been difficult for No. 16 Mississippi State.
Under Dan Mullen, MSU has played the Crimson Tide eight times and come up short in each instance. Only one of those games was within single digits with the Bulldogs losing 25-20 in 2014 for their first loss of the year. Last season, Alabama gave MSU a historical beating with a 51-3 win in Tuscaloosa.
Despite all of that, Mullen isn’t approaching this week any different than anything else since he has been in Starkville.
“Mississippi State’s never been able to go to a lot of bowl games. Never been to number one in the country,” Mullen said. “That’s the type of program that we’ve built here and that’s what the whole thing is built on. (The mindset against Alabama) is the same way we’ve done everything here.”
This season feels different heading into the game for the Bulldogs, first of all with the game being played at Davis Wade Stadium. State has also turned around one of the nation’s worst defenses to become one of the best heading into Saturday.
Players certainly feel that they have a shot when the Crimson Tide rolls into town. Quarterback Nick Fitzgerald believes he will have a different day than he did that Saturday morning last year.
“We’re confident. There should never be a time where you line up against someone and not believe you can beat them,” Fitzgerald said. “I have full confidence that we can win. Alabama is a really good football team and is tops in the country and have been for awhile. You have to go out there and not worry about the name on the jersey.”
To take down Alabama, MSU will need to play much better than it did last week when it survived a 34-23 game against UMass. In essence, the Bulldogs will have to be perfect, but Mullen said that will be no different than any other Saturday in the SEC.
“You have to have a perfect game to beat anybody. If you look at Saturday (vs. UMass) I thought we had a great week of preparation leading into the game,” he said. “I don’t think we came out and executed that clean but we found a way to make plays to win. If you don’t do that every week, you’re not going to come out and expect to win.”
Mullen didn’t specifically update all injured Bulldogs on Monday but did mention that junior linebacker Gerri Green is expected to play against Alabama. Green was injured at the bottom of the pile on a controversial play late in the ball game against UMass.
“He should be okay to play. He should be cleared,” Mullen said. “Some of the other guys we won’t know until later in the week. We’ve got a lot of guys banged up so the next guy has to step up and go make a play.”
The Bulldogs are expected to be without senior wide receivers Gabe Myles and Donald Gray again on Saturday and Myles could be out for the rest of the regular season with a foot injury. Gray is nursing a groin injury and there is no new status on him.
Fellow receiver Keith Mixon is expected to play on Saturday as is Lashard Durr after both missed the UMass game.
Bulldogs Continue Rise in the Polls
Thanks to four-straight wins, MSU continues to move up in the national polls.
In the USA Today’s Coaches Poll, MSU rose from 22nd to 18th. They were also 18th in the Associated Press Poll, up three spots from No. 21 last week.
State debuted at No. 16 in the all-important College Football Playoff poll last week. The new rankings will be released Tuesday night.
Who: Alabama at Mississippi State
When: 6 p.m. Saturday
Radio: 1580 AM, 96.9 FM