By Logan Lowery
STARKVILLE – Tonight’s game is not a must-win situation for Mississippi State – a good thing with the nation’s top-ranked team coming to town.
But, the Bulldogs (4-5, 1-4) must win two of their next three games to reach bowl eligibility.
Standing in the way of that benchmark tonight is top-ranked Alabama (9-0, 6-0), a team MSU has struggled mightily against.
The Crimson Tide own a 76-18-3 lead in the series and have won and 10 of the last 12 meetings. Alabama has claimed five straight contests against the Bulldogs by a combined score of 155-34.
It will be the sixth time in school history for State to face the nation’s No. 1 team with four of those matchups coming against the Tide. The Bulldogs are 1-4 in those games with the lone win coming in the stunning 6-3 victory over Alabama in 1980.
“It’s a great opportunity for our team,” said MSU coach Dan Mullen. “I think it’s the second or third time we have been able to play the No. 1 team since I’ve been here. You don’t those opportunities often. For our guys to be able to do it, it’s really exciting for us. Only nine teams have had that opportunity this year. It’s a great chance for our guys.”
The Crimson Tide were ranked No. 1 last year when Mississippi State traveled to Tuscaloosa with both teams undefeated at 7-0.
Alabama scored 38 straight points in the game before the Bulldogs were able to add a late touchdown in the 38-7 outcome.
The Tide amassed 414 yards on offense and saw their defense hold MSU to just 256 yards and forced three turnovers.
Once again the maroon and white faithful will have to wait until game time to see who the Bulldogs starting quarterback will be. Sophomore Dak Prescott injured his left shoulder late against Texas A&M last week and did not return.
Senior Tyler Russell started that game as well as two others this season but has missed four contests this year with a concussion and ankle injury.
“We felt pretty good about both our quarterbacks coming out of training camp,” Mullen said.”Tyler Russell with the starting experience, played a lot of football here, continued to grow and do a lot of good things. Dak developing from being a guy that came in as a redshirt freshman last year, running a couple of plays in a small package, to being a guy that was understanding the quarterback position and everything that was asked of him.
“We saw that coming along. Now he has had the opportunity to go out on the field because of injuries. He’s had the opportunity this season to go out and show everybody else what type of player he can be.”