— STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) — Quarterback Tyler Russell knows what will decide the upcoming Southeastern Conference showdown between his No. 13 Mississippi State Bulldogs and the No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide.
It's not a complicated formula.
"It's going to come down to who makes the least amount of mistakes," Russell said.
Sounds simple enough. But Russell and Alabama's A.J. McCarron are two of the nation's most efficient — and mistake-free — college quarterbacks.
And the two are remarkably similar.
Both look the part of a big-time college quarterback, standing about 6-foot-4 and over 200 pounds. They're also productive, accurate and have the awareness to know when to throw the ball away or take a sack.
Russell has completed 60.1 percent of his passes for 1,573 yards, 15 touchdowns and one interception while McCarron is completing 68.8 percent of his throws for 1,476 yards, 16 touchdowns and no interceptions.
But more than size and ability, Russell sees only one important shared trait: Both are winners.
"I feel like we've done a good job leading our teams," Russell said. "We're both 7-0, and that's all you can ask, for the quarterback to go out and lead the team."
Russell's emergence as one of the Southeastern Conference's elite quarterbacks has been one major reason the Bulldogs (7-0, 3-0 SEC) are still fighting for a Western Division title. The junior played part-time the past two seasons behind Chris Relf before stepping into the starter's role this fall.
But he hasn't seen anything like this Alabama defense so far this season. The Tide is giving up just 195.6 yards per game and 8.3 points per game, which lead the SEC by a wide margin.
Alabama coach Nick Saban isn't surprised by Russell's success. The Tide recruited him when he was a prep star in Meridian, Miss., and Saban said the same traits that made him an elite recruit have turned him into one of the SEC's best.