By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
STARKVILLE – Cam Lawrence has to admit: This week is a little different.
No. 13 Mississippi State will travel to No. 1 Alabama on Saturday (7:30 p.m., ESPN) in a critical SEC Western Division battle. Both teams are 7-0, with the Bulldogs holding a 3-0 league mark and the Crimson Tide coming in 4-0.
Coach Dan Mullen and quarterback Tyler Russell both said they’ll be treating this week the same as any other week. Lawrence, the senior linebacker, said Alabama week is different.
“You say you want to treat it like any other week, but we’re stepping our game up, and we’re hyped, we’re excited,” Lawrence said Monday. “I know today just walking around, all the guys have got a glow in their eye. They’re ready for some action.”
Lawrence has noticed the buzz on campus. With the team off to its best start in 13 years – MSU started 8-0 in 1999 – fans are hoping for big things.
“Everybody’s going to be buzzing about it, but you’ve got to take the same approach you’ve had in the last seven games,” Russell said. “I don’t think anything will change. As far as practice, I think it’ll be a higher tempo, everybody’s excited.”
Playing the top team in the country is motivation enough, but then there’s the fact that Alabama is favored by more than three touchdowns. That furthers the narrative among the players that they aren’t being given enough respect for being 7-0.
MSU’s schedule is ranked 119th in the country by Jeff Sagarin of USA Today, and the three SEC opponents it has played so far are a combined 0-14 in league play.
Mullen said he has no opinion on the point spread or anyone’s perception about his team.
“We have to worry about what we think about each other inside,” he said. “And I think our guys have a lot of respect for the leaders on our team. And they respect how everybody on the team works, and they respect each other and they respect our program.”
When asked if MSU would play the respect card this week, tailback LaDarius Perkins simply said, “No.”
Lawrence echoed something cornerback Johnthan Banks said two weeks ago about MSUnot getting national respect.
“I like being the underdog,” Lawrence said. “It’s fuel to the fire for me.”