Kevin C. Cox
The Bulldogs have so far proven only that they are 7-0. Can they prove that they deserve to be there?
Mississippi St. Bulldogs vs. Alabama Crimson Tide, 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
It's not really a surprise that Alabama will kick this game off undefeated. Any predictions that Alabama would fall short of Miami rested on a defeat at LSU, and the Tide had a favorable schedule until (and after) that game. The Mississippi State game was destined to be a footnote, no more.
Then Mississippi State went undefeated over its first seven games, adding a little bit of suspense to this game. If only a little bit. After not defeating an SEC West team not named "Ole Miss" in Dan Mullen's first three seasons, the Western Division Bulldogs knocked off Auburn. Auburn, you might point out, is 0-5 in the SEC this year.
And Mississippi State's only other SEC wins come against Kentucky and Tennessee, themselves a combined 0-11 against the SEC so far. Which is not to say that Mississippi State's undefeated record isn't proof that they're a good football team -- bad teams don't go undefeated -- but it is to say that we need to see a little more before we starting putting State in the national championship discussion.
Alabama would be a good place to start. The Tide matches a solid offense with a defense that ranks first in the nation in rushing defense, passing efficiency defense, total defense and scoring defense. If Mississippi State defeats Alabama, there will be no more discussion of it being a scheduling coup.
It could also answer a few questions for Alabama. After all, the win against Michigan remains the only victory on their schedule against a team that looks remotely like a Top 25 teams. Winning out against a closing stretch that includes Mississippi State, LSU and Texas A&M would answer a lot of those questions. First things first.
Alabama 35, Mississippi State 17