TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — This Alabama-Mississippi State game is about current stars like Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper, not the number of stars once bestowed as recruits.
If history and pedigree are on the fourth-ranked Crimson Tide's side entering Saturday's mega-SEC West showdown, the Bulldogs are the ones sporting the No. 1 ranking and perfect record.
It's new territory for a one-sided rivalry between programs stationed some 85 miles apart geographically and worlds apart historically.
Mississippi State (9-0, 5-0 Southeastern Conference) and Alabama (8-1, 5-1) stand on much more even ground this season. Both are shoo-ins for the first College Football Playoffs if they win out. The Bulldogs hold the top spot in the CFP rankings, the Tide is fifth with a virtually guaranteed move up with a win.
Alabama, which has been dominant at Bryant-Denny Stadium, is an 8-1/2-point favorite whatever the rankings.
Mississippi State's already played in one game of similar magnitude, beating then-No. 2 Auburn at home. Coach Dan Mullen is hoping his players have a chance to get used to them.
"They love it," Mullen said. "This is what they came to school here for. They wanted to put us in a position where we're on a national stage here at Mississippi State."
They've certainly arrived. Mississippi State has held the top spot in the AP rankings for five weeks and is seeking to match its program-best 13-game winning streak set from 1942-44.
The Tide, which routinely lands top-ranked recruiting classes and contends for titles, has won the past six meetings and 79 percent overall.
Alabama coach Nick Saban is sold on Mullen's team, saying the Bulldogs have already "proven they have one of the best teams overall in the country." The Tide is more accustomed to games like this, having won three national titles in the last five seasons.
The Bulldogs, however, are the SEC's only remaining unbeaten. Alabama's the only other team in the league with fewer than two losses, having just survived an overtime game at LSU.
Quarterback Blake Sims said Alabama had to put that one in the rear view mirror quickly and "realize that this is the next step to get to the promised land."
Added Tide receiver DeAndrew White: "Big games, we're pretty used to it around here."