Last year, Mississippi State walked into Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa with the weight of the college football world on its collective shoulders.
The top-ranked Bulldogs were playing in what was perceived as the biggest game in school history against an Alabama team that had been there and done that.
The Crimson Tide jumped out to a 19-0 lead en route to a 25-20 victory, erasing MSU’s hopes of a national championship.
This year, it is the Bulldogs who are back in the familiar underdog role as they try to take down No. 3 Alabama today at 2:30 p.m. on CBS.
“I think the fact that we’re at home, everybody is a little more loose,” said MSU defensive tackle Nelson Adams. “Last year in Tuscaloosa we were a little more uptight. Everybody felt like they had to do something they’ve never done before. Now we know what to do and just have to go out there and play our game.”
After digging the early deficit last year, the Bulldogs outscored Alabama 20-6. State also outgained the Tide 428-335 on offense for the game but three turnovers and a safety were too much to overcome.
“If we would have started better maybe we would have had a good chance to go win the game last year,” said MSU coach Dan Mullen. “The guys who played in the game last year, it will stick with them.”
One player that last year’s loss certainly stuck with was quarterback Dak Prescott. Prescott accounted for 372 yards and two touchdowns but also threw the Tide three interceptions.
“Every loss sticks with you,” Prescott said. “You’re going to think about it. Going into this game, we can’t have turnovers. It’s a big part of the game for both teams and always is. We’re just going to go in and try to execute the game plan the best we can against a very good team.”
The Crimson Tide have dominated the “Battle of Highway 82” series going 78-18-3 overall including seven straight victories. Alabama is currently 8-1 and sitting atop the SEC West standings with a 5-1 league record.
“We have a huge challenge playing one of – if not the – best team in the country,” Mullen said. “If you look at their team, they have great depth at every position. They have five-star talent at every single position across the board. I’ve said they have more four and five-star guys sitting on the bench than we have on our roster.”
The 20th-ranked Bulldogs (7-2, 3-2 SEC) enter today’s game riding a four-game winning streak in which they have outscored their opponents 163-66.