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MSU needs to beat MTSU to set up showdown vs. Alabama


Matthew Stevens



STARKVILLE - The collision course of Southeastern Conference unbeaten teams is just one more step closer to a reality. 


With all due respect for the football program at Middle Tennessee State, with the 41-31 victory against the University of Tennessee Saturday night, Mississippi State University has set up their program for the matchup everybody wants to see. 


Unless Tennessee is able to rebound from this defeat in Starkville to beat the No. 1 ranked University of Alabama this coming week, MSU (6-0, 3-0 in SEC) can now look to a matchup of a pair of unbeaten SEC schools when the Bulldogs travel to Tuscaloosa, Ala., on Oct. 27. 


It's the dream scenario that all MSU fans barely envisioned last December when the SEC schedule came out while the Bulldogs were in Nashville preparing for the 2011 Music City Bowl against Wake Forest University. 


The Bulldogs increased their longest winning streak in school history to tie the 1999 and 1918-19 teams that won eight in a row. The matchup against Alabama (6-0, 3-0) will be a matchup of two of the five winningest programs in Division 1 college football. The Crimson Tide currently share the nation's longest winning streak of 10 straight wins with the University of Oregon but MSU stands as the next highest school with eight. 


"We're not worried about Alabama right now," MSU senior cornerback Johnthan Banks said. 


Both programs have not only produced victories but done so in dominant fashion as through six games, MSU has trailed for only 10 minutes and 19 seconds this season while the Crimson Tide has only trailed for 15 seconds in 2012 (in the loss against the University of Mississippi). 


The battle at Bryant-Denny Stadium in two weeks could involve two of the most efficient quarterbacks in the country as both MSU's Tyler Russell and Alabama's A.J. McCarron have over 10 touchdowns and less than one interception. 


While the thoughts are enticing about the top two teams in the Western Division of the SEC meeting in two weeks, the fresh memories of facing Alabama are anything but positive for the Bulldogs under Mullen. In his previous three matchups against the Crimson Tide, MSU has lost all by at least 17 points and only scored 20 total points combined. 


The meeting in 2009, a 31-3 victory for Alabama, represented the lowest scoring output for an MSU team under Mullen. The 2011 setback at Davis Wade Stadium, a 24-7 win for the Tide, represents the first downs, rushing yards and average yards per play in Mullen's 44-game tenure. 


The consistent motto of the MSU coaching staff is "the next game is the most important because it's the next game." After the result in Starkville Saturday, there's not a lot of truth to that point. 


"We're for real, don't you know that by now," Banks said. "We're 3-0 in the SEC and looking to improve that going forward."



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