October 22, 2012 10:41:29 AM
Matthew Stevens - firstname.lastname@example.org
STARKVILLE -- Dan Mullen doesn't want to listen to the idea the Mississippi State University football team hasn't been properly prepared for its matchup against the nation's No. 1 team.
"We've been tested a bunch," Mullen said Sunday in his weekly teleconference with local reporters. "We've had some pretty close games this season."
No. 13 MSU (7-0, 3-0 Southeastern Conference) has survived an upset attempt at Troy University and trailed in two of the three conference games. But the Bulldogs, who are ranked No. 12 in the USA Today poll and No. 11 in the Bowl Championship Series standings, haven't faced a ranked team in The Associated Press or the USA Today polls. Also, the three SEC teams MSU has defeated are a combined 0-14. All of that has been factored into the opening line for MSU's game at 7:30 p.m. Saturday (ESPN) at No. 1 University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Ala. MSU is a 24-point underdog. The last time MSU faced a line that large was Sept. 27, 2008, at LSU. No. 5 Tigers defeated MSU 34-24.
"Alabama will be the best team we've played, but I guess anybody that plays them will say that about them since they're the best team in the country," Mullen said. "Our kids have been through some different tests, they've faced the adversity of success, they've faced the adversity on the field of being put in some rough situations, and we had to step up and make some plays. Our guys have been through a lot, and we have some good leadership on this team. I feel like they'll be ready for the environment we're going to head into on Saturday night."
Mullen has lost nine of his last 10 games against ranked opponents. His only victory in that stretch is a 10-7 decision against the University of Florida on Oct. 16, 2010, in Gainesville, Fla.
Defending national champion Alabama (7-0, 4-0) is ranked No. 1 in both polls and the BCS standings. It also is No. 1 nationally in total defense, scoring defense, run defense, pass defense, pass efficiency defense, and interceptions (tied). The Crimson Tide have won all of their games by at least 19 points. Mullen said Alabama's recruiting success the past several season has helped coach Nick Saban build one of the nation's top programs.
"Over the last five years, they've pretty much had the top recruiting class every year," Mullen said. "They're loaded with talent at every single position, they're very deep at every single position, and they're a well-coached football team. You take all that talent, you coach it up really well, and the result is the No. 1 defense in the country in just about every category. Throw that on top of their offense. They're one of the top offenses in the country, with an average score of 41-8. We'll have our hands full."
MSU in top 15 in all three national polls
MSU climbed to No. 11 in the latest BCS standings, while Alabama remained at No. 1.
The second rankings will help determine the teams that will play in the 2013 National Championship game in Miami. The BCS standings are made up of the coaches poll, the Harris Poll, and the average of six computer rankings.
The SEC had the most schools in the BCS standings, and placed six in the top 13 and seven in the top 25.
MSU's ranking ties its second-best ranking since the system was adapted in 1999. MSU's highest ranking was 10th on Nov. 8, 1999.