What we're about to learn about Bama

Updated: October 26, 2012, 4:14 PM ET
By Travis Haney

Here's what we know: The Alabama Crimson Tide, first in the BCS by a comfortable margin, received 59 of 60 first-place votes in the most recent Associated Press poll. The team has won seven games by an average score of 41-8. They are the defending national champions.

Here's what we don't (yet) know: just how good this team is. For all the Tide's statistical prowess, they remain veiled in a bit of mystery. We haven't seen a test on their schedule since the opener against Michigan. Four of their seven opponents so far have losing records, and their opponents' combined record is 24-25.

The veil will be lifted now, with three consecutive games against ranked divisional opponents. How might Mississippi State, LSU and Texas A&M -- with 22 combined wins -- attack the Tide? Do they have any shot at taking Bama down?

No. 11 Mississippi State Bulldogs

Record: 7-0, 3-0 SEC
When: Saturday
Location: Tuscaloosa
X factor: Secondary

However much of a mystery the Tide remain, the Bulldogs are even more of one. Vegas made it clear Sunday that it isn't sold on the SEC's third undefeated team, making Mississippi State a 24-point road underdog against Alabama.

The combined record of MSU's opponents is currently 19-32; the only two above-.500 teams have been 4-3 Troy and 4-3 Middle Tennessee State. Middling competition aside, a reason to believe in the huge underdog -- at least to keep it close -- is its veteran secondary. Bama QB AJ McCarron lit up Tennessee a week ago for a career high in passing yardage, but the Vols have struggled all season against teams that can throw the ball.