One of the SEC's oldest rivalries is renewed Saturday in Tuscaloosa, Ala. when Mississippi State visits No. 2 Alabama.
The Crimson Tide (5-0, 5-0 SEC) have dominated the overall series between the two teams, going 82-18 with three ties. The last Bulldogs win against Alabama was at home, 17-12 inNovember 2007.
To make it a more daunting task for Mississippi State -- which has lost three straight after an upset of LSU to open the season -- several players have departed the program in the past two weeks.
Coach Mike Leach confirmed Wednesday the exits of three players, raising the total number of departures to seven, according to 247Sports.
Running back Kylin Hill, one of the Bulldogs' top performers last season, is set to opt out this week and focus on the NFL Draft, according to a report in AL.com. Leach said Wednesday that he expects that to happen.
The Bulldogs (1-3, 1-3) were flying high with Leach's Air Raid offense that dropped 44 points on LSU on Sept. 26. But since then, the Bulldogs have managed no more than 14 points in any game, and didn't score on offense on Oct. 10 at Kentucky in a 24-2 loss.
The quarterback competition is now open, with senior transfer K.J. Costello trying to hold on to the job and freshman Will Rogers trying to win it.
"Both guys have performed well in practice. I don't really like splitting reps with quarterbacks. I like to settle on one," Leach said. "I would prefer that approach, but we've been awfully up and down. We need to figure out who gives us the best spark."
Alabama has scored 35 or more points in 18 straight games, and is the SEC's top offense at 566.4 yards per game. Mississippi State leads the SEC in total defense, allowing 295.5 yards per game.
The Crimson Tide have defeated 94 consecutive unranked teams under head coach Nick Saban, the longest streak in FBS history. Alabama is also 48-2 in October games with Saban at the helm.
But the Crimson Tide will be playing the rest of the season without star wideout Jaylen Waddle, who fractured his right ankle in the win over Tennessee. The junior had 25 catches for 557 yards and four touchdowns over the first four games.
Junior quarterback Mac Jones set an Alabama record for consecutive completions with 19. He had eight straight to finish Alabama's win over Georgia on Oct. 17, then hit on his first 11 passes at Tennessee last week.
"This time of year is when players need to choose to do the things they need to do to continue to get better and create the right habits in practice, so that you cannot develop the kind of habits that start showing up in the game that are not necessarily positives for your performance," Saban said. "Nobody feels great this time of year, so you've got to choose your energy and let your feelings follow that."
Senior running back Najee Harris has a rushing touchdown in 12 straight games dating back to the Oct. 19 of last season. Within those 12 games, Harris has 26 rushing touchdowns and two or more scores in eight.
Harris also has totaled 14 rushing touchdowns this season, a new Alabama football record through the first five games of a season.
--Field Level Media