No. 18 Mississippi St welcomes No. 1 Alabama to Starkville

ith Nick Fitzgerald #7 during the second half of an NCAA football game against the Massachusetts Minutemen at Davis Wade Stadium on November 4, 2017 in Starkville, Mississippi. (Photo by Butch Dill/Getty Images)

No. 1 Alabama (9-0, 6-0 SEC, CFP No. 2) at No. 18 Mississippi State (7-2, 3-2, CFP No. 16), Saturday, 7 p.m. ET (ESPN).

Line: Alabama by 13½.

Series record: Alabama leads 80-18-3

WHAT’S AT STAKE

Alabama’s trying to continue its march to an SEC Western Division title, SEC overall title and a spot in the College Football Playoff. Mississippi State is trying to do something it’s never done in coach Dan Mullen’s nine-year tenure – beat the Crimson Tide.

KEY MATCHUP

Mississippi State’s running game vs. Alabama’s defense. The Bulldogs are averaging nearly 260 yards rushing and have been very effective on the ground during their four-game winning streak. QB Nick Fitzgerald has run for at least 100 yards in each of the four games. Alabama counters with a run defense that’s giving up about 75 yards per game, which ranks first in the league and second in the nation.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Alabama: LB Rashaan Evans. He had 10 tackles against LSU in last week’s win and figures to be around the football a lot as Mississippi State tries to establish its running game.

Mississippi State: RB Aeris Williams. He hasn’t been quite as productive running the ball as Fitzgerald this season, but he’s still got 776 yards rushing and two touchdowns. He has also caught 12 passes.

FACTS & FIGURES

  • Alabama is the only team in the country ranked in the top 20 in scoring defense (first), scoring offense (ninth), rushing defense (second), rushing offense (ninth), total defense (second) and total offense (17th).
  • Alabama has trailed for just two minutes and 26 seconds this season. That was during the first half of the season opener against Florida State.
  • Mississippi State has returned an interception for a touchdown in each of the last three games.
  • The Bulldogs have allowed only five sacks this season, which is the fewest among teams in Power Five conferences.