TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- A total of nine FBS teams currently boast a 4-5 overall record and Alabama coach Nick Saban thinks Mississippi State is the best of them.
Saban routinely praises everyone of the Crimson Tide's opponents, but he took it a step further calling the Bulldogs "probably the best 4-5 team in the country."
Even though the Bulldogs are in position to finish with a losing record for the first time since 2009, Saban has repeatedly called Mississippi State a "very, very good team."
"This is a real challenge for our team," Saban said. "Obviously, a very emotional win for us against a very good LSU team. Mississippi State, I think, has probably the best 4-5 team in the country. They've lost five games to top 20 teams and have played extremely well all year long.
"It's a difficult preparation because they do a great job of coaching their players."
Heading into the matchup last season, the Bulldogs were 7-0 and were being mentioned as a potential SEC contender.
Now, the Bulldogs have one SEC win, which came in a 28-22 victory over Kentucky.
Mississippi State ranks seventh in the SEC in total offense with 459.2 yards per game and sixth in total defense, allowing 372.9 yards per game.
"You've got to look past the record, because this is a very good team offensively," Saban said. "They can run the ball. They keep the ball, the time of possession is good. Defensively, they're one of the top tier of the SEC defensive teams. They're very well-coached.
"Dan (Mullen) has done a great job there. They play hard, they're very physical, they play with a lot of toughness."
Saban also said Starkville was a tough place to play and emphasized how difficult it is to prepare for the Bulldogs.
"The last two times we were over there it was 7-0 at halftime in 2011, and 17-3 in 2009 going into the fourth quarter," Saban said. "So we've had some tough games. They have a good football team. It's a difficult preparation in terms of all the things that they do, the players that they have, how they utilize their players, they're really well coached and this is something that makes it even more important for the players to do a great job in preparation, understanding their job, understanding their tendencies of what they need to do and how we need to play those plays."
The players aren't looking past the Bulldogs either, particularly their defense.
"They have very experienced linebackers and defensive linemen," wide receiver Christion Jones said. "We've got a lot of things that we have to take out on them and see how we're going to attack. That's what we've been doing throughout the week, trying to figure out how we're going to attack them. They're a very disciplined group, very fast. They move very good up front, so we've got to control the line of scrimmage and be able to attack them each and every way that we can. As a receiver unit, with AJ, we have to keep the tempo going on offense."