7-0 and in the upper echelon of the SEC West.
Strong running game.
Underrated and efficient quarterback with an impressive touchdown-to-turnover ratio
One of the top teams in the country in turnover differential.
Big-time defense full of future NFL players.
Hopes of an SEC title and National Championship.
This team has a lot going for it. The question is: what team is it?
Every single one of those things applies to Mississippi State.
They all apply to Alabama, too.
“Yeah, there are a lot of similarities, now that you talk about it,” MSU’s junior running back LaDarius Perkins said. “I didn’t really think about it, but it really is. They’ve got some great guys, but we feel like we’ve got a great team also. We’re both undefeated, but we feel like we have a good chance to win this game, also.”
Heck, even Crimson and Maroon aren’t that far apart, especially after a few runs through the wash.
On offense, there is barely 20 yards of difference in the per-game outputs of the Bulldogs and Crimson Tide.
Alabama has the second-ranked rushing offense in the SEC. MSU has the conference’s individual leading rusher in Perkins.
The two schools are first and third in the conference in pass efficiency.
On defense, both units have amassed more than 10 interceptions on the semi-young 2012 season, 13 for Alabama and 12 for MSU.
The Tide and the Dawgs are second and third, respectively, in time of possession in the SEC.
MSU has created 21 turnovers. Alabama 20.
Chad Bumphis has 29 catches for MSU, while UA’s freshman star Amari Cooper has 28.
Bama QB A.J. McCarron has thrown for 16 touchdowns and zero interceptions. MSU’s Tyler Russell has 15 and one.
The two passers are so similar, in fact, MSU linebacker Benardrick McKinney said the Bulldog defense is as prepared as anyone for McCarron because they go against Russell every day in practice.
“Strong arms, accuracy,” McKinney said of the two quarterbacks. “They’ll make you pay if you give them the wrong read on defense.”
McKinney himself represents another similarity, as he and junior outside linebacker Deontae Skinner are both big-bodied ‘backers who can pass rush as well as many defensive ends. Those, after all, are the types of linebackers Nick Saban’s 3-4 defense is known for.
“We have great linebackers, they have great linebackers,” MSU center Dillon Day said. “We go against some great linebackers, so it’ll definitely help when we play them.”
While the teams are so similar, the main difference lies within the standings. The defending BCS champs, Alabama is No. 1 in the country and considered a favorite to repeat. MSU, coming off a 7-6 2011 season, is No. 11 in the BCS and considered quite the underdog against the Tide on Saturday.
But that doesn’t mean anyone – on either team – thinks it will be a blowout, or anything close.
“It’s gonna be a good game,” McKinney said.
Said All-SEC left guard Gabe Jackson, “I think it’s all gonna come down to executing and staying focused. Alabama doesn’t make many mistakes and we don’t either. It’s gonna be a fight.”
Between these two teams, calling it a fight may very well be the best way to describe what happens this Saturday.