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MSU going from track meet game at A&M to heavyweight fight vs. Alabama



Matt Stevens


STARKVILLE - Dan Mullen knows the game plan for Mississippi State as it transitions opponents from Texas A&M to Alabama will be the definition of night and day.  


Last week MSU (4-5, 1-4 in Southeastern Conference) was preparing for a track meet against Aggies quarterback Johnny Manziel and his high-powered offensive attack. This week he and the Bulldogs staff are getting ready for a heavyweight fight.  


"It's very different," MSU coach Dan Mullen said. "You have to make sure everybody takes a lot of ice baths this week, where last week we had to stretch out an awful lot and hydrate, you were going to be running around all over the place. This week you'd better get in that ice bath and get your body healthy, because they're going to pound away at you." 


Against Bowl Championship Series schools, No. 1 Alabama (9-0, 6-0 in SEC) is second in the league in rushing at 233.14 yards per game. The Crimson Tide's running game is led by sophomores T.J. Yeldon (862 yards, 12 touchdowns) and Kenyan Drake (556 yards, 7 touchdowns) as Alabama averages over six yards a carry on first and second down.  


In the last four games against Alabama, MSU has allowed the Tide to run for an average of 207.25 yards per game. Last season MSU was one of three teams to hold Alabama to under 200 yards on the ground. However, in that 38-7 road loss in Tuscaloosa, Alabama went up 24-0 before halftime and Yeldon came out of the game early after 84 yards on 10 carries.  


"Defensively, they are in the top tier of the SEC," Alabama coach Nick Saban said. "They are very well coached. Dan (Mullen) has done a great job there. They play hard, they are very physical, and they play with a lot of toughness. So this is a very good team that we are going to have to do a really good job of getting ready to play and play well." 


In the four previous games against Alabama, MSU has never rushed for more than 150 yards and have averaged just 1.18 yards per carry.  


"They're more of a defensive team I guess, right?," Mullen said Monday at the Seal Family Football Complex. "That's what they're always known for. So a great challenge on that side of the ball. They're deep, I mean they've got five-star players as backups, they've got five-star players sitting on the bench not getting tons of reps. I think they had the one game where Johnny Manziel put up a bunch of points, made a bunch of plays running around and improvised and put up a lot of yards. Despite that they still lead the nation, the conference and are rated top of the nation in just about every defensive category." 


The average height and weight of Alabama's starting offensive line, which is coached in his first year with the program by former Florida International head coach Mario Cristobal, is 6-foot-4.5 and 307.8 pounds. The tradition of Saban's teams in front of a powerful offensive line has been to run the football with a power game early and often. The Crimson Tide have been ranked 16th, 16th, 30th and 12th in the country in rushing.  


"You look last week, they rotate tight ends in," Mullen said. "Why do I bring that up? They bring one in and I just watched him run away from LSU's entire defense on one play. Then they bring in a bigger guy that's 6-6, 310 pounds and is bigger than most of our offensive linemen." 




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.



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