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Alabama knocks off No. 1-ranked Mississippi State


TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- That knock on the door from the fifth position in the College Football Playoff rankings just got a great deal louder.

If it's even still on the hinges.

Alabama, ranked fifth in the CFP rankings, picked up a 25-20 home win over No.1-ranked Mississippi State Saturday that is certain to shake up the selection committee's top four for the fourth consecutive week. A stifling Crimson Tide defense smothered the Bulldogs -- who entered averaging an SEC-high 522 yards per game -- by containing star quarterback Dak Prescott as a rusher, and intercepting him three times.

The implications for Alabama are simple enough: an SEC Championship Game berth remains in reach, as does a playoff berth, as long as the Crimson Tide continues winning. Alabama has regular-season games remaining against Western Carolina (Nov. 22) and Auburn (Nov. 29), both in Tuscaloosa.

For previously unbeaten Mississippi State, things are now much more complicated. At 9-1, the Bulldogs now need help to even win the SEC West. And if that help never comes, MSU would have to hope an 11-1 regular season is enough to get a playoff pass from the selection committee. Mississippi State still has regular-season games against Vanderbilt (Nov. 22, at home) and Ole Miss (Nov. 29, on the road).

The loss to Alabama also figures to be a major blow to Prescott's Heisman Trophy hopes. The Bulldogs' status as a No. 1-ranked, unbeaten team might have had as much to do with Prescott's standing in the Heisman race as his play, particularly given a recent spate of interceptions (eight since Oct. 11).

Alabama quarterback Blake Sims was steady if not spectacular, completing 19 of 31 passes without an interception. Perhaps more importantly, he moved the chains on two key third downs on the Crimson Tide's game-clinching touchdown drive in the fourth quarter.

A look at how some of the top pro prospects in the game performed:

» Alabama WR Amari Cooper caught eight passes for 88 yards and a touchdown, including a spectacular 50-yard catch in traffic at the MSU goal line. For the second consecutive week, however, Cooper dropped two catchable passes, which is unlike the normally sure-handed junior.

» Alabama RB T.J. Yeldon, with a tender ankle, rushed for 75 yards on 16 carries and a late touchdown that sealed the win.

» Alabama DB Landon Collins picked off the last of Prescott's three interceptions, Collins' third of the season, and made seven tackles.

» Mississippi State LB Benardrick McKinney made just three tackles, making a limited impact against the run but showing impressive instincts and awareness in pass coverage.

» Mississippi State DL Preston Smith made the only sack of the game for the Bulldogs (for his team-leading eighth of the year) to go with three solo stops and a quarterback hurry.

*Follow Chase Goodbread on Twitter **@ChaseGoodbread*.

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