College Football Extra: No. 1 Mississippi State tries to take down No. 4 Alabama
In 1941, Mississippi State defeated Alabama, 14-0, in Tuscaloosa, Ala., en route to winning the school’s only SEC championship.
The Bulldogs received another opportunity five decades later, in 1999, taking a No. 8 ranking and 8-0 record to Alabama but losing 19-7 as the Crimson Tide won the SEC West.
It occurred again in 2012: Mississippi State, 7-0 and ranked No. 13, lost 38-7 in Tuscaloosa to the defending national champions.
Two years later, the Bulldogs again are visiting No. 5 Alabama with much to prove in one of the SEC’s oldest rivalries. They enter Saturday’s game at Bryant-Denny Stadium 9-0 and ranked No. 1.
Located 90 miles apart, Alabama and Mississippi State are the closest SEC schools geographically.
Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen, who played tight end at Ursinus in Collegeville, is 0-5 against Alabama, with his team never scoring more than 10 points in any of those meetings. For that reason, Mullen is downplaying his team’s chances, despite its lofty ranking.
“In every article you read, we are big underdogs in this game,” Mullen said. “We know that role. Our guys are going to come in with a chip on their shoulder and play with great effort.”
Alabama leads the series 76-18-3. Mississippi State hasn’t defeated the Crimson Tide since winning consecutive games in 2006 and ’07.
“They probably have more five-star (recruits) sitting on the bench than we have on our entire team,” Mullen said. “This is a great challenge for us with all of the talent that they have.”
One talented player who eluded Alabama was Mississippi State junior quarterback Dak Prescott. A three-star recruit from Haugton, La., Prescott ranks No. 5 nationally in passing yards per completion (15.28) and No. 7 in passing efficiency (158.5), second in the conference behind Alabama senior Blake Sims.
Also a dangerous ball-carrier, Prescott leads SEC quarterbacks and is eighth overall in the conference with 779 rushing yards.
Alabama coach Nick Saban this week compared Prescott to former Florida quarterback Tim Tebow, who, like Prescott, terrorized SEC defenses running and passing.
In 55 games at Florida, Tebow completed 66.4 percent of his passes with 88 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. He averaged 4.3 yards per carry.
In 22 games at Mississippi State, Prescott has completed 59.7 percent of his passes with 32 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. He averages 5.6 yards per carry.
“A couple of years ago, he got in the game in Tuscaloosa,” Mullen said about Prescott’s maturation process. “Now he has played in big games. He is going to walk on the field with confidence knowing that the situation is not too big for him.”
John Harris is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at [email protected].