October 21, 2012 12:41:10 PM
STARKVILLE - It turns out the battle between the Mississippi State University and University of Alabama football programs will be one between two Top 15 programs at Bryant-Denny Stadium Saturday (7:30 p.m., ESPN).
After MSU (7-0, 3-0 in Southeastern Conference) defeated Middle Tennessee State University 45-3, the Bulldogs continued to move up in both major polls released Sunday morning. MSU is now ranked 13th in the latest Associated Press poll and also 12th in the USA Today Coaches' poll.
Seven Southeastern Conference teams (University of Alabama 1, University of Florida 3, Louisiana State University 6, University of Georgia 12, MSU 13, University of South Carolina 17, and Texas A&M University 22) were a part of the AP poll, which was the most of any league.
MSU had two pollsters (Doug Doughty of the Roanoke Times and Garland Gillen of WWL-TV in New Orleans) place them inside the Top 10 at No. 9. However, Cleveland (Ohio) Plain-Dealer sportswriter Doug Lesmerises had them ranked the lowest at No. 23. Lesmerises also was only AP voter to give Florida a No. 1 ranking.
Alabama (7-0, 4-0) garnered 59 of the 60 first place votes after defeating the University of Tennessee 44-13 in Knoxville, Tenn., yesterday. Defending Pac 12 Conference champion University of Oregon was second with Florida, Kansas State University and the University of Notre Dame rounding out the Top 5.
MSU's jump of four spots in the USA Today Coaches' poll was tied for the second biggest leap of a school behind the University of Michigan (20 from 25) but matching Stanford University (19 to 23) and Boise State University (18 to 22).
Last week's ranking of No. 15 in the AP poll was the highest in-season ranking for MSU since 2000. The Bulldogs received 739 voting points in the AP poll while receiving 800 voting points in the coaches' poll.
Alabama was the consensus top-ranked team among the 59-coach panel that vote in the USA Today Coaches' poll with same order of Top 5 teams as the AP poll.
MSU has still have yet to play anybody ranked or even received a single vote in either poll during the 2012 schedule and so the matchup with Alabama (7-0, 4-0) will be mark the first time since losing at Arkansas in Little Rock where MSU will face a ranked opponent.
"This week is huge for our program," MSU head coach Dan Mullen said. "This is right where we want to be. When I took the job here, these are the type of games that we wanted to play in. Our guys are going to be excited for the opportunity to be able to go play the No.1 team in the country."
All of the Dispatch MSU Sports Blog readers: feel free to follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/matthewcstevens for up-to-date Mississippi State coverage.
2. Sunday at the Bluff today explores biology ENTERTAINMENT
4. St. Paul's announces Valentine's Day organ recital ENTERTAINMENT
5. Big Band experience returns to Golden Triangle ENTERTAINMENT