October 23, 2009 8:25:00 AM
STARKVILLE -- Anthony Dixon doesn''t shy away from a challenge.
That''s just what Mississippi State''s new all-time leading rusher will get against the University of Florida.
Something will have to give at 6:30 p.m. Saturday (ESPN) when one of the nation''s top defenses takes on one of the country''s top rushing attacks.
Dixon expects a "grind it out game," and that''s the type he likes.
"It''s a challenge of a lifetime," Dixon said. "You don''t get this shot often, and I can''t wait."
Florida (6-0, 4-0 Southeastern Conference) leads the nation in allowing 228.3 yards per game and 8.7 points per outing.
The defense is why the Gators believe they are still undefeated, but they aren''t satisfied.
"There are only a couple of ways to analyze it," Florida coach Urban Meyer said. "Are you winning games and are you statistically doing good job? I think we have a defensive coordinator (Charlie Strong) with high expectations. The defensive staff and the players have felt like we could play much better, and I like that."
Dixon sees the Gators having the "confidence and swagger" that comes with having the best defense they can.
"To be the best, hey feel like they have to shut you down," Dixon said. "That means they are hitting the gaps and filling the gaps. They are playing together. That''s what makes them so good."
Behind Dixon''s 696 yards rushing this season, MSU (3-4, 1-2) is fourth in the SEC and 13th in the nation with 219 yards rushing per game.
Coach Dan Mullen said the Bulldogs rushing success points to "players buying into the system and doing their job."
"If every player performs at a high level and if our backs take care of the football, trust and run hard, we''re going to have the opportunity to run the football," Mullen said.
Mullen respects what the Gators have done under Strong and knows his running game will have a tough assignment Saturday.
"Charlie is always going to try and create matchups and try to load the box," Mullen said. "They have some corners who play one-on-one on the outside, so it gives them the ability to load the box and stop the run on you."
If MSU is forced to throw the football, senior quarterback Tyson Lee, of Columbus, will have to deal with "the rush from a good front four" and defensive backs who are "good in man coverage."
"Our receivers are going to have to win a lot of one-on-one matchups," Lee said.
Lee is 87 of 149 for 981 yards and three touchdowns. He also has rushed for 168 yards in 45 carries.
Mullen said Lee is "doing a decent job of managing the team and getting us in the right positions."
He didn''t reveal whether sophomore quarterback Chris Relf will be available Saturday. Relf has been suspended for the past two games.