Alabama has already clinched a spot in the SEC title game, but there’s still a lot at stake over the final weeks of the regular season.
The third-ranked Crimson Tide look to stay on track toward reaching their goal of playing in the BCS title game in southern California when they visit Mississippi State on Saturday.
Alabama (9-0, 6-0) secured a second straight SEC West title after a 24-15 victory over LSU last Saturday. The Tide will face top-ranked Florida in the conference championship on Dec. 5 in Atlanta with the results having possible implications on the national title game.
“That was the goal we had,” tailback and potential Heisman Trophy candidate Mark Ingram said of winning the West. “Hopefully we’ll get to Pasadena as well.”
Alabama has put itself in good position heading down the stretch. While the Tide didn’t move up in the AP poll following their latest win, they jumped past Texas to No. 2 in the latest BCS poll.
With hype already building toward his team’s matchup with Florida, coach Nick Saban is trying to keep his team focused on the three remaining regular season games, even though the Tide will likely be big favorites.
After visiting Mississippi State (4-5, 2-3), Alabama takes on Chattanooga, a Football Championship Subdivision team, then visits longtime rival Auburn – 3-3 in conference play – in the annual Iron Bowl.
“When you have success, the next opportunity you can lose that and you’ve got to be smart enough to know what it takes to continue to try and improve and perform well,” Saban said. “Remember this, the other guys that we’re playing, they’ve got scholarships too, and … they are pretty good.”
No matter how good the opponent, Saban’s defense is hard to compete against.
The Tide are fourth in the nation in yards allowed per game (242.2) and sixth in scoring defense (11.8). They held the ninth-ranked Tigers to 253 yards of offense and outscored them 14-0 in the fourth quarter to rally from a 15-10 deficit. Alabama also tallied another three sacks to give them a conference-leading 25 for the season.
While the performance by Alabama’s defense was typical, Saban was especially pleased with the effort on offense. Alabama finished with 452 yards – its most in six games. Quarterback Greg McElroy threw for 276 yards and two touchdowns while Ingram rushed for 144 yards on 22 carries.