SEC West unbeatens Alabama, Mississippi State meet


SEC West unbeatens Alabama, Mississippi State meet

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) Big games are practically a weekly affair for Nick Saban and Alabama, who have seemingly mastered the accompanying spotlight and pressure.

No. 13 Mississippi State is less accustomed to games like Saturday night's visit to the top-ranked Crimson Tide, where the winner gains the inside track to an SEC West championship and what-ifs could haunt a season.

The Bulldogs (7-0, 3-0 Southeastern Conference) are off to their best start since 1999, the only other time the program has opened a season with seven straight wins.

``It's a great opportunity for our guys,'' Bulldogs coach Dan Mullen said. ``We look at this as a championship-caliber game for us. You get into championship games, you've got to be ready to play for four quarters. There's going to be a lot of potential momentum swings back and forth, back and forth.

``You have to weather the storm of the crowd, weather the storm of all the momentum swings.''

The Tide (7-0, 4-0) seems to have had a stadium-wide umbrella protecting the team from real trouble. Alabama hasn't really been challenged and only Mississippi State rival Mississippi has been ahead of Saban & Co. - for all of 15 seconds.

That consistent dominance, plus two national champions in three years, convinced oddsmakers that this is a mismatch whatever the records indicate. Alabama is a 24-point favorite and has won the last four meetings by a collective 117-27.

Saban disputes any contention that Mississippi State has been anything but a tough win. The Bulldogs did beat his first Tide team, in 2007.

``They always play tough against us,'' Saban said. ``They don't play OK against us, they play good. We struggled as much against them last year as anybody we played against.''

Alabama led only 10-0 going into the fourth quarter of that game a week after a loss to LSU temporarily muted the national title talk. The game ended up 24-7.

Now, a national title game rematch with LSU looms next week in Baton Rouge.

There seems little chance of overlooking the Bulldogs, though.

``This is probably the most complete team they have had since I've been here,'' Alabama linebacker Nico Johnson said. ``We're not taking them lightly. We're going to come in with the same mindset we've had week in, week out and go after them.''

The Tide's 11-game winning streak isj the nation's longest while Mississippi State has won nine in a row, one behind Oregon.

The teams have plenty of similarities.

Tide quarterback AJ McCarron and Mississippi State's Tyler Russell have been two of the league's most efficient passers with only one interception between them, thrown by Russell.

The game features the SEC's leading rusher, Mississippi State's LaDarius Perkins, and probably the top tailback tandem in `Bama's Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon.

The defenses are led by two strong secondaries. The Tide's Dee Milliner and Bulldogs' Johnthan Banks are two of the nation's top cornerbacks.

Mississippi State leads the nation in turnover margin and Alabama is tied for third.

Alabama's defense still has a big edge, leading the nation in all the major statistical categories. But the Bulldogs rank ninth nationally in scoring defense.

``They've got a good defensive team, they've got good players, they've got a good offensive team,'' Saban said. ``They've got really good balance, a good quarterback who can throw the ball. They're committed to running it, and do a good job of running it. Their runner leads the league in rushing, so they're a good team all the way around.''

The Tide does have an edge in big-game experience. Alabama is 19-6 against Top 25 teams the past four seasons and has won six of the last seven such games.

``I think the more you listen to Coach Saban talk, and his philosophy on this, the more true they become,'' Alabama center Barrett Jones said. ``It doesn't matter as much about the other team, it's more about you. When you look at the film, as good as the other team is, every time we've lost a game around here it's not because they just did amazing things, it's because we didn't execute.

``I'm not taking away anything from any team that we've ever played, that's just the facts. So you learn to focus on yourself, and being better as a unit on the offensive line, and usually things take care of themselves.''

Mullen, though, has been part of national championship teams as Florida's offensive coordinator, so he's no stranger to the magnitude. He said it was evident that the players' intensity picked up this week.

``You say you want to treat it like any other week, but we're stepping our game up,'' linebacker Cameron Lawrence said. ``We're hyped. We're excited. Just walking around today all the guys have a glow in their eye. They're ready for some action.''


AP Sports Writer David Brandt in Starkville, Miss., contributed to this report.


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After releasing Martez Carter the Redskins are thin at running back

Associated Press

After releasing Martez Carter the Redskins are thin at running back

The Redskins are very thin at running back right now. 

Today at practice the Redskins had three running backs on the field. Rob Kelley and Kapri Bibbs are fully healthy while Chris Thompson is limited as he recovers from a broken leg he suffered last November. 

Injuries have hit the depth at running back. The most recent casualty was Martez Carter, who was waived with an injury designation. 

The move was surprising since Carter had some good runs against the Jets during their preseason game on Thursday and he did not appear to be injured during the game. 

Coach Jay Gruden did not offer any more details as to what the injury to Carter was, only that he is no longer with the team. 

Also sidelined with lower leg injuries are Samaje Perine and Byron Marshall. According to media reports, Perine will be out one week and Marshall for two to four. Gruden would not confirm the timelines, saying only that they are undergoing treatment and the timetable for their returns in unknown. 

The Redskins will bring in some running backs to try out on Sunday. They will need at least one and probably two in order to get through the upcoming preseason game against the Broncos on Friday. 

In other personnel moves, the Redskins waived linebacker Jeff Knox and defensive end Jalen Wilkerson and signed offensive tackle Kendall Calhoun, defensive back Darius Hillary, and wide receiver Allenzae Staggers. 

More Redskins news

-Redskins vs Jets: Must-see photos from the game
-AnalysisFive Redskins-Jets observations

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, and follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCS and on Instagram @RichTandler


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Alex Ovechkin and wife Nastya Ovechkina welcome baby boy

NBC Sports Washington/USATSI

Alex Ovechkin and wife Nastya Ovechkina welcome baby boy

After lifting the Stanley Cup just over two months ago, something else very exciting has happened in Alex Ovechkin's life.

Saturday morning, Nastya and Alex Ovechkin welcomed their first child, a baby boy named Sergei, after Ovechkin's late brother. 

Ovi spent this week practicing at the Florida Panthers' facilities with other NHL players living in the surrounding area.

After the Cup's visit to Moscow, Nastya and Alex settled down at their apartment in Miami, staying put and preparing for the birth. 

The couple were married two years ago but didn't hold an official ceremony until July of last year. The celebration was as lavish as you'd expect.

She revealed her pregnancy shortly after the Cup victory, and has kept us up to date on life this summer via Instagram. A few weeks ago, the Ovechkins graced HELLO! Russia magazine, showing off Nastya's baby bump among their glamour shots.

💛 @aleksandrovechkinofficial #hello #hellorussia @hello__ru

A post shared by Nastasiya Ovechkina (@nastyashubskaya) on

Congratulations to Ovi and Nastya, and all our best wishes for health and happiness!