TRips: Monday morning thoughts

Some random Monday morning notes and observations as Alabama enters Mississippi State week.

Milliner continues to lead the nation in passes defended.

*Two of the nation's top cornerbacks -- Alabama's Dee Milliner and Mississippi State's Johnthan Banks -- will be on display when the top-ranked Crimson Tide (7-0, 4-0) takes on the No. 11 Bulldogs (7-0, 3-0) Saturday night (7:30 p.m. CT/ESPN) at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

The duo picked up Jim Thorpe Defensive Back of the Week honors in consecutive weeks to start the 2012 season, with Milliner honored for his play against Michigan and Banks against Auburn.

Through seven games, Milliner has two interceptions and 13 pass breakups, while Banks has picked off four passes and broken up five more.

*Six different UA defenders have picked off two passes this season, doubling the number of Alabama players who recorded multiple picks a season ago. With 13 interceptions in 11 games, the Crimson Tide pass defense has already matched its output for all of 2011.

*In three meetings with UA as Mississippi State head coach, Dan Mullen's teams have scored a grand total of 17 points. Both of State's touchdowns since 2009 came on scoring tosses from Tyler Russell, who will make the third appearance and second start of his career against the Crimson Tide this week.

*This week will mark the fifth straight night game between Alabama and Mississippi State. The last time the two teams met during daylight hours was 2007; an 11:34 a.m. CT game in Starkville that Crimson Tide fans wish they would have slept through.

*Alabama has won four straight over State, outscoring the Bullies 117-27 since 2008.

*After passing for a career-high 306 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions in Alabama's 44-13 win over Tennessee, quarterback AJ McCarron moved to the top spot in the FBS passing efficiency rankings. The junior jumped from 171.9 to 183.6 after torching the Vols.

*The nation's top-ranked defense will welcome the SEC's top rusher to Tuscaloosa this week. Alabama is allowing 195.6 total yards per game, including just 58.7 on the ground, while Mississippi State running back Ladarius Perkins is averaging 103.4 rushing yards per game.

Perkins, a junior who has eclipsed the 100-yard mark in each of State's last three games, carried five times for 10 yards in the Bulldogs' 24-7 loss to UA a season ago.

*2012 Notre Dame is 2005 Alabama. The Irish keep getting by but no one outside of Chicago/Northern Indiana really thinks they'll be in South Florida come the second week of January.

*In case you missed it, Louisiana-Monroe nipped Western Kentucky 43-42 in overtime Saturday. The visiting Warhawks came back from a 28-7 second-half deficit to tie the game 35-35 at the end of regulation.

After giving up a touchdown to WKU on the opening possession of overtime, ULM answered to pull within one point of the Hilltoppers. Unlike the Warhawks' loss to Auburn earlier in the season, when coach Todd Berry elected to kick the tying extra point and send the game to overtime, they went for two points this time and got it.

*LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis isn't a big proponent of zone coverage, especially on the outside, but going to it might have been the difference between winning and losing for the Tigers at Texas A&M.

Aggies' quarterback Johnny Maziel is like most dual-threat guys in that his effectiveness is cut in half when forced to sit in the pocket and make throws. Once Chavis mixed more zone with a controlled pass rush, Johnny Football became much easier for the LSU defense to deal with.

*When projecting Tennessee beyond this season, the biggest problem for Derek Dooley is that the roster doesn't off the fanbase much hope. If quarterback Tyler Bray and wide receivers Justin Hunter and Corderrelle Patterson leave for the NFL Draft, seven wins will likely be the ceiling for the Vols' once again.

*If you had wanted to spend the upcoming weekend on beautiful St. Simons Island, Ga., but previously couldn't get a room or condo, you might want to check back with the area's hotels and resorts.

With a thumping at the hands of rival Florida looking more and more likely following Georgia's uninspired showing at Kentucky, chances are some Dawg fans have changed their weekend plans.

Amazing that it took only a year for the red-and-black sense of impending doom to return where the Gators are concerned.

*Speaking of Florida-Georgia, the Cocktail Party was the first college football rivalry game I attended. I was seven or so when the aforementioned old man took me along to watch his beloved Gators fall to the Bulldogs in the old Gator Bowl.

Two things I recall from that day, neither of which had to do with happenings on the field. First was the distinct smell of what I would later learn was bourbon, which hit me like a looping left hook. Next was the electric atmosphere in the stadium that day. I haven't been able to shake either ever since.

*I attracted more than a cackle or two a few weeks back when I wrote that of the pool of candidates at the time, Kansas State might very well represent the toughest postseason matchup for Alabama.

KSU's detractors might want to ask West Virginia what it thinks of Bill Snyder's blocking-and-tackling squad after the 7-on-7 Mountaineers were beaten down in Morgantown.

Oregon-Alabama is the matchup most of the nation wants to see, but I still think Kansas State-Alabama would be the more competitive game.

*I like my Wildcat package like I like my baseball relievers who have 5.43 earned run averages: in mop-up time.

*In trying to keep compete Alabama and LSU, Auburn coach Gene Chizik had no choice but to switch to a more physical pro-style offense.

While sticking with the spread would have prevented some of the ugly losses the Tigers have incurred this season, it would have also ensured that beatings like the ones Auburn took from the Crimson Tide and Bengal Tigers last season would have continued long-term.

Chizik's mistake came in thinking the Auburn family would show some patience while his team went through the rough transition that comes with making the switch from finesse to full-contact football. That doesn't happen much anywhere these days and certainly not at AU when rival Alabama is perched atop the college football world.

*I've attended an Army-Navy game in Philly but I won't feel like I've truly experienced academy football until I attend an Army game at West Point. It ranks highly on the bucket list.

*With his team all but eliminated from the SEC Eastern Division race before Halloween, you know Steve Spurrier would love to crack wise on Georgia's cushy Western Division opponents.

Unfortunately for Spurrier, his alma mater has shown that taking on some of the better teams from the West isn't necessarily a disadvantage. Not only did Florida destroy Spurrier's Gamecocks over the weekend, the Gators have a tougher road to Atlanta than even the Gamecocks.

Like USC, UF crossed over to play LSU and its other Western Division matchup -- at Texas A&M -- will likely prove to have been tougher than the Gamecocks upcoming contest with Arkansas.

*Saturday night marked my son's fourth trip to Neyland Stadium. His first came as an eight-year-old in 2004. Now he's a junior in high school, which means his next road trip to Knoxville probably won't include his old man.

In thinking back to the crestfallen little guy who left the stadium that day eight years ago, I'm sure he found his latest visit to be much more enjoyable than his first.

As for me, I'd go back to that dreary October Saturday in 2004 in a minute if it meant he could be eight again.

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