STARKVILLE, Miss. — It wasn't until the postgame news conference that Alabama's Nick Saban could explain why he was roaming the sideline with a prominent cut and bruise on his left cheek.
Even the Crimson Tide's longtime coach couldn't avoid his team's tremendous pass rush.
No. 3 Alabama used a dominant defense — including nine sacks — to beat No. 20 Mississippi State 31-6 on Saturday night at Davis Wade Stadium. Jonathan Allen had a team-high three sacks. He also inadvertently smacked Saban as he was running onto the field in the first quarter.
"He's a tough guy — he'll be all right," Allen said with a grin. "I asked if he was okay and he said he was good."
Mississippi State didn't fare so well.
Alabama survived its last real test before the Iron Bowl in two weeks, overcoming a slow start by scoring three long touchdowns in the second quarter to beat the Bulldogs for an eighth straight season.
Derrick Henry ran for 204 yards and two touchdowns. The Tide won easily despite being outgained 393 yards to 379.
"It was kind of weird game," Saban said. "Every touchdown was a big play."
Alabama struggled on offense during the first quarter and had 40 total yards early in the second. But Cyrus Jones' 69-yard touchdown on a punt return — when he reversed field and broke a few arm tackles — broke a scoreless tie and jolted the Tide awake for two more big plays before halftime.
The first was when Jake Coker found Calvin Ridley on a short pass. The 6-foot-1, 188-pound freshman used a nifty move at midfield to shake a defender then sprinted for a 60-yard touchdown, pushing the Tide ahead 14-0.
There was nothing fancy about the second one. Henry found a seam in the middle of the field, and once his 242-pound body hit full speed, nobody was going to catch him before a 74-yard dash to the end zone.
Henry added a 65-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.
Mississippi State's Dak Prescott threw for 300 yards, but the Bulldogs never found the end zone. He completed just 22 of 43 passes and constantly had to deal with Alabama's defense in his face.
Alabama's nine sacks were the program's most since 1998 against Vanderbilt. Coker completed 15 of 25 passes for 144 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen said his team played "fantastic" defense for most of the night but was undone by Alabama's ability to make big plays.
"You're looking at 69-, 60-, 74- and 65-yard touchdowns," Mullen said. "You're not going to win doing that."
ARKANSAS 31, NO. 9 LSU 14: Alex Collins kept the resurgent Razorbacks rolling at the expense of an LSU squad that has fallen hard and fast.
Collins ran for 141 yards and two touchdowns, and visiting Arkansas won its fourth straight game.
Combined with Alabama's victory, Arkansas eliminated the Tigers from contention in the SEC West. Two weeks earlier, the Tigers were unbeaten and ranked second by the College Football Playoff committee. They were No. 9 in the CFP this week after losing for the first time this season at Alabama on Nov. 7.
LSU running back Leonard Fournette had 127 yards from scrimmage and scored his 17th touchdown this season, but that may have done little to help his Heisman Trophy candidacy.
MISSOURI 20, BYU 16: J'Mon Moore's touchdown catch early in the fourth quarter lifted the host Tigers in Kansas City, Mo., capping a tumultuous week for Missouri that began with a boycott and included the resignation announcement of coach Gary Pinkel.
Drew Lock threw for 244 yards and Russell Hansbrough ran for 117, helping the Tigers snap a four-game losing streak while greatly improving their faded bowl prospects by improving to 5-5.
The game was put in doubt last weekend when black players said they wouldn't practice or play until the university system president stepped down. The team joined forces with a student activist group that had been trying to get the president's attention for months.
The president resigned Monday. Then Pinkel, who publicly supported the players, announced Friday that he was diagnosed with lymphoma and would step down at the end of the season.
GEORGIA 20, AUBURN 13: Isaiah McKenzie, Aaron Davis and the Bulldogs' defense took the game — and the ball — into their own hands. McKenzie returned a fourth-quarter punt 53 yards for a touchdown to lift visiting Georgia in a battle of preseason division favorites. "He (Kevin Phillips) outkicked his coverage, and like Coach (Mark Richt) told me all week, 'If you get a pitch to hit, take it,' " McKenzie said. "My teammates had great blocks, I got around the corner and scored a touchdown."
TENN. 24, N. TEXAS 0: The Volunteers allowed 199 total yards in their third straight win, making them bowl eligible. Tennessee hadn't won three straight games within the same season since reeling off four in a row in 2010. "The whole season we've just been getting better and better as time goes on," said Tennessee linebacker Darrin Kirkland Jr., who had a team-high eight tackles. "We're just grateful for the opportunity we got this week."
VANDY 21, KENTUCKY 17: The host Commodores made two goal-line stands, and safety Oren Burks intercepted two passes. Vanderbilt had its most points since a 47-7 win over Austin Peay on Sept. 19. Second-year coach Derek Mason recorded his second SEC win. Both teams must win their last two games to become bowl eligible.
TEXAS A&M 41, W. CAROLINA 17: Kyler Murray threw for 191 yards and three touchdowns and the host Aggies shook off a slow start to cruise. The Catamounts scored two quick touchdowns to tie it at 14 in the second quarter before Texas A&M scored 20 straight.