"What people outside our building say about us is their opinion. We have to worry about what we think about each other inside. And I think our guys have a lot of respect for the leaders on our team. And they respect how everybody on the team works, and they respect each other and they respect our program. So they give great effort in those regards because of those things, and that's really all that matters."
Nevertheless, the respect is evident from the Alabama team for the Bulldogs improvement, even though the Tide has dominated the last four meetings by a collective 117-27 margin.
"They have improved a lot over the past three years," Alabama linebacker Nico Johnson said. "We're not taking them lightly because they're a good team. I don't think they get the credit they deserve. We're going to come in with the mindset of they want to knock us off, so we're gonna try to get after them the best we can for a 60-minute game."
It's a big one for the SEC West, which had three teams in the national title hunt — Alabama, LSU and Arkansas — going into the final weekend of the regular season last year. The decline of Arkansas and Auburn, plus the rise of several SEC East teams, has dimmed the spotlight on the division somewhat even with No. 22 Texas A&M entering the mix.
The SEC East has been part of all the marquee league games so far, such as Florida-Texas A&M, Florida-LSU, South Carolina-Georgia and LSU-South Carolina.
This game features two of the nation's top three teams in turnover margin and two of the league's most efficient quarterbacks.
Alabama's AJ McCarron has the nation's highest passing rating. He has thrown for 16 touchdowns and his interception-free streak has risen to 239 passes. Mississippi State's Tyler Russell has 15 touchdown passes against one interception.
"It's always been a great game because they are great at running the ball," Tide linebacker C.J. Mosley said. "They have a great offense and a great defense. They have one of those defenses that gets a lot of turnovers, too, and we're right there with them on turnovers. It ought to be a great day."