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October 23, 2012The University of Alabama hosts Mississippi State on Saturday in what will be a meeting between the Southeastern Conference's leading rusher, Bulldogs junior LaDarius Perkins, and the Crimson Tide's top-ranked rush defense.
Something will have to give, and with both teams entering play at 7-0, the inside track to the SEC Western Division is at stake.
Here is a look at the matchup from both perspectives.
Last year against Mississippi State: The Crimson Tide completely shut down the Bulldogs rushing attack, giving up just 12 yards on 29 carries. The UA defense recorded nine tackles for loss, though most of those came on sacks.
Ranking high: This year's Alabama defense ranks No. 1 in the nation in rushing, allowing just 58.7 yards per game. Opponents are averaging just 1.9 yards per carry against the nation's only defense allowing below a 2.0 average. Alabama has allowed only 32 rushing first downs, an average of just 4.6 per game.
The century mark: Only twice in the past 67 games has the Crimson Tide defense allowed a 100-yard rusher. Tennessee's Tauren Poole rushed for 117 in 2010, and Georgia Southern's Dominique Swope recorded 153 yards in 2011. Prior to that, the last opposing rusher to reach 100 yards was Ole Miss' BenJarvus Green-Ellis in 2007.
Coach Nick Saban says: "They have a big offensive line. They've got a really good scheme they run the ball with, and lots of multiples in terms of how they present it, how they try to confuse defensive players. (Perkins is) very quick, very instinctive as a runner. He does a really good job of executing and running the plays that they have. He's tough. He runs behind his pads and is a hard guy to tackle."
Nico Johnson says: "A lot of people haven't heard of him. That means he's going to come in with a chip on his shoulder, you know? I like to think we're a good defense this year; he's probably thinking that, too. So this is his chance to showcase what he can do. We're going to have to come in and make them one-dimensional - stop the run and make them, force them, to pass the ball."
Last year against Alabama: Perkins got only five carries against the Crimson Tide defense. He ran for 10 of the Bulldogs' 12 total net rushing yards. Vick Ballard led Mississippi State with 21 yards rushing.
Ranking high: Perkins ranks first in the Southeastern Conference with 103.4 yards per game. He places 24th in the country with 724 yards through seven games and 125 carries (5.8 yards per carry). Perkins accounts for 57 percent of Mississippi State's rushing offensive output of 181 yards per game.
The century mark: In more than half of Mississippi State's games (four out of seven), Perkins has topped the 100-yard barrier. The games in which he did not rush for 100 yards, he carried the ball less than 15 times (nine for 58 yards against Jackson State, 14-83 against Auburn and 11-69 against South Alabama). He's coming off of a 20-carry, 125-yard game against Middle Tennessee State.
Coach Dan Mullen says: "They have a lot of talent (along the defensive line). You take the talent that they have and they have great size. They develop that size. They do a pretty good job of developing that talent. They're a physical team, and we like those games. We like to consider ourselves somewhat of a physical program as well. You're going to line it up and punch each other in the face."
LaDarius Perkins says: "They're a very stingy defense. They don't give up many yards. I've watched them play in a couple of games. I saw a couple of plays from when they played Tennessee. They do a great job of stopping the run. They can also stop the pass, too. I know what I can do. I haven't impressed myself at all, because I know my talent, I know my ability, I know I work hard. Playing against Alabama, the No. 1 team in the nation, for us that's exciting."