TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — Alabama brushed aside a top SEC West challenger and roared on to an even tougher one.
AJ McCarron passed for 208 yards and two touchdowns, and the top-ranked Crimson Tide reached the end zone on its first three possessions in a muscle-flexing 38-7 victory over No. 13 Mississippi State on Saturday night.
That blazing start indicated Bama wasn't looking ahead to No. 6 LSU in a national game rematch — at least until the second quarter.
"We felt like we had something to prove, because they felt like they could come in our house and beat us," Tide linebacker CJ Mosley said. "As a defense we did a great job of stopping the run and making them try to beat us with the pass."
Point made. The Tide (8-0, 5-0 Southeastern Conference) quickly turned the meeting of unbeaten SEC West teams into a mismatch with a 21-0 lead barely a minute into the second quarter.
"We certainly had a lot of respect for Mississippi State," Alabama coach Nick Saban said. "You don't get to be 7-0 by accident. I think it was important for us to get off to a fast start in this game, preparing yourself to fight a 15-round fight, knowing that you're going to have to take the fight to them in the early rounds.
"You can't necessarily win the fight in the first round, but you can certainly lose it. I think we had the right amount of energy and the right physical energy to play in the game."
The Bulldogs (7-1, 3-1) came in averaging 36.7 points but didn't score until the final minutes. They had been leading the nation in turnover margin but lost two fumbles and an interception.
McCarron completed 16 of 23 passes before sitting out the fourth quarter. He headed to the locker room briefly early in the quarter with a bruised back but returned to the sideline. Saban said he could have returned and will be fine for the LSU game.
The Tide has now won the past five meetings and this one turned into more of the same, despite considerably more hype.
"They're No. 1 for a reason — they don't make mistakes," Mississippi State cornerback Johnthan Banks said. "I haven't played a team like that since I've been in college. I have great respect for AJ McCarron. He doesn't make mistakes."
The Bulldogs had started 7-0 for only the second time in program history. Instead of proving they were legitimate SEC contenders, this game showed they have a ways to go.
McCarron hit Kenny Bell in stride for a 57-yard touchdown to cap a drive that started at Alabama's 4. He then found tight end Michael Williams for a 9-yard score early in the second quarter.
His 18 touchdowns tie him with John Parker Wilson for second-most in school history, two behind Greg McElroy's single-season record.