TUSCALOOSA — If Dan Mullen were a teacher, he'd have no other choice but to give his Mississippi State squad a failing grade on its first real test of the season.
After cruising to a 7-0 record versus a bunch of nobodies, the No. 11 Bulldogs ran into the biggest somebody of them all Saturday night in Tuscaloosa, losing miserably to No. 1 Alabama.
The 38-7 final pushed the Tide's record to 8-0 (5-0), keeping their SEC West and national title hopes intact heading into next week's marquee matchup with LSU.
If Mullen's men were the dunces of Saturday's battle between unbeatens, then Bama coach Nick Saban's players were the cream of the crop.
No pupil shone brighter than quarterback AJ McCarron, who made all the right plays early to motor the Tide to a quick 21-0 lead. The silky-smooth signal-caller put the perfect touch on a 57-yard touchdown pass to Kenny Bell late in the first quarter and added a 9-yard score to a wide-open Michael Williams shortly thereafter.
McCarron opened the game with six straight completions before Amari Cooper failed to find the handle on a catchable screen pass. The quarterback finished 16 of 23 for 203 yards and the two touchdowns.
Phillip Ely made the most of his limited time behind center in a backup role, completing his one and only pass to Eddie Lacy, who rumbled 27 yards untouched for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter.
Alabama capitalized on Cyrus Jones' 41-yard return on the opening kickoff to put its first points on the board.
After Eddie Lacy and McCarron combined to move the ball deep into Bulldog territory, T.J. Yeldon capped off the drive with a loud introduction. The true freshman pulled off a 10-yard run up the middle on his first carry and then scooted in from 11 yards out on the very next play.