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Mississippi State and Alabama meet this Saturday in Tuscaloosa in a game that has implications on the Southeastern Conference Western Division and the national championship picture.
For the No. 13 (Associated Press) Bulldogs (7-0, 3-0) to be successful establishing the ground game against the No. 1 Crimson Tide (7-0, 4-0) will be a big key.
Alabama leads the SEC in rushing defense. They have only allowed 411 yards in seven games for an average of 58.7 yards per outing and have not allowed any team to rush for 100 yards.
"We are ready to take on this challenge," MSU head coach Dan Mullen said during Wednesday's SEC coaches teleconference. "I don't know anybody who has run the ball on them in the last couple of years."
The Bulldogs bring the No. 1 rusher in the SEC to Tuscaloosa in junior running back LaDarius Perkins.
Perkins has rushed for 724 yards on 125 attempts. He is averaging just over 100 yards per game and has scored eight touchdowns this season in seven games.
"He is very productive, quick and he runs behind his pads very instinctive," Alabama head coach Nick Saban said during the teleconference. "He does a very good job of executing their plays that they run. We think he is the (most) talented guy that we have played against all year long."
For the Bulldogs to establish the rushing game, it starts up front with the offensive line.
"We are a good offensive line, but on the opposite end of the spectrum, they are a good defensive line," MSU senior offensive lineman Tobias Smith said. "It's going to be a battle for four quarters."
The Bulldog offensive line has come together as of late and been a big reason to their success this season.
"They are big and they are physical," Saban said. "They do a great job of run blocking. They have a really good scheme. They are well-coached. They have improved every game this year. We think they are a very good offensive line."
MSU has been pretty balanced on offense this year. They have run the football 258 times and have thrown 217 times.
"They are committed to running it," Saban said. "They have been able to run it effectively. They have the leading rusher in the SEC. You can't do any of them if the offensive line is not playing well."
The Alabama defensive line is led by senior Damion Square and junior Ed Stinson.
"They are real disciplined," Smith said. "They do exactly what they are supposed to do. That's what makes them a great team."
The Mississippi State offensive line feels very confident that they can open up holes and be the first team to rush for 100 yards against Alabama this season.
"I think we are definitely capable, if we finish blocks and play like we have been," Smith said.
Bryant-Denny Stadium will present a hearing problem for the offensive line, but veterans like junior offensive lineman Gabe Jackson has been preparing the younger players on the line.
"I talk to them," Jackson said. "I tell them 'you are not going to be able to hear nothing. You have to be aware of where you're going.' It will be a new experience for them, but they will adjust to them."View more articles in: