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October 22, 2012

Tide, Bulldogs winning turnover game

TUSCALOOSA | From improvement at the quarterback position to a defense allowing barely more than 14 points per game, there are plenty of reasons why Mississippi State will arrive at Bryant-Denny Stadium Saturday with an unblemished record of 7-0.

But perhaps none have been as important in the Bulldogs' resurgence as turnover margin. Dan Mullen's team has fashioned a turnover margin of +2.43 turnovers per game this season, which ranks No.1 out of 120 teams in the NCAA. MSU visits Alabama Saturday for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff.

"Definitely the game is going to come down to who makes the least amount of mistakes," said MSU quarterback Tyler Russell. "Both teams have done an outstanding job so far this year of eliminating those mistakes."

Defensively, MSU has forced 21 turnovers -- an average of three per game -- which happens to be the weekly goal for the University of Alabama defense.

"We have a goal - three a game - and if we don't meet that goal, we don't meet it," said UA linebacker Nico Johnson. "But we're going to come in try to create turnovers and give our offense a better chance to go down and score."

Alabama, for its part, ranks No.3 in the nation with a turnover margin of +2.0. Quarterback AJ McCarron has yet to throw an interception, and UA has lost six fumbles. Defensively, Alabama has forced 20 turnovers, just one less than MSU.

"They lead the nation in turnover margin, which is always big in winning," UA coach Nick Saban said of the Bulldogs.

MSU defensive backs Johnthan Banks and Darius Slay have made four interceptions each, and eight different Bulldogs defenders have recovered nine fumbles. But while the battle for turnovers figures to be hard-fought Saturday, Johnson said Mississippi State's turnover margin won't place any additional pressure on Alabama's defense to create more than usual.

"It's no competition there in that aspect of the game, but we want to come in and create turnovers," he said.

Reach Chase Goodbread at chase@tidesports.com or at 205-722-0196.

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