It took years of planning, and crafty nonconference scheduling, for Mississippi State to get into the position of being 9-0 and top ranked.
Mississippi State has never been 9-0, never been No. 1, and never had this kind of pressure before kickoff.
Not only are the Bulldogs trying to win at
"They probably have more five stars [recruits] sitting on the bench than we have on our entire team," Bulldogs Coach Dan Mullen said of Alabama this week.
Mississippi State had to wait for one talented recruiting class to grow up and become seniors.
The Bulldogs enter their national close-up with some advantages. They got to warm up last week with an easy game against
In 2012, Alabama won a similarly emotional game in Baton Rouge, La., and lost the next week at home to quarterback
Dak Prescott is Mississippi State's bulkier, dual-threat version of Manziel. Alabama Coach
Alabama is favored by a touchdown, but the Crimson Tide is limping a bit with star tailback
The site being Tuscaloosa is an advantage for Alabama, which eked out wins at
Alabama is a big-moment program, with a 6-4 all-time record against top-ranked schools. While Mississippi State's Mullen is only now starting to reverse field on his woeful record against ranked opponents, Alabama's Saban has long been a huge-game master and commander.
Saturday's game between No. 1 and No. 5 is guaranteed to be a game-changer in the College Football Playoff ranking. The game will be carefully scrutinized by an increasingly anxious selection committee.
The 12-person panel made a tactical error this week when it needlessly installed Texas Christian at No. 4 in the rankings. The committee has only three weeks left to resolve a critical issue involving
The problem: the committee, in its first ranking, had TCU at No. 7, six positions ahead of Baylor.
Sensing it would have to reward Baylor if the Bears win the Big 12 Conference, the committee closed the gap to three spots this week.
The panel inflamed the situation, though, by putting TCU into the fourth position — which would put it in a national championship semifinal. The Horned Frogs close with what should be wins against
The committee could have avoided all this by putting Alabama at No. 4 instead of TCU. The position doesn't matter right now because Alabama was going to leapfrog the Frogs anyway if it defeats Mississippi State.
Placing TCU at No. 5 would have closed the Baylor gap to two spots and eliminated the potential need to drop TCU out of a playoff spot before the final ranking is released on Dec. 7.
How Mississippi State-Alabama plays out will also be important to the selection committee. An Alabama blowout victory would allow the committee to trapdoor Mississippi State down the rankings given the Bulldogs' laughable nonconference schedule.