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Alabama turns the page to Mississippi State, albeit with some lingering soreness

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- "Everybody was knocked out," Blake Sims recalled.

More than 60 minutes of bone-crushing football will do that to you. The emotional highs and lows of a come-from-behind victory on the road will have that effect, too.

Alabama's quarterback turned around during Saturday night's flight home from LSU and saw his teammates exhausted. He looked back on what they'd done and how they "gave it their all," and was proud.

"They played their hearts out," he said.

Games like Saturday's overtime battle with LSU don't stop having an effect as soon as the whistle blows, though. The collisions catch up with you. Soreness sets in and bruises rise to the surface.

"It was tough, but I got out of bed," said Alabama linebacker Reggie Ragland. "I didn't really feel it until I started moving around. I came up here for treatment [Sunday] and my shoulder just started killing me, so I had to get in the hot tub and cold tub and calmed it down a little bit."

Austin Shepherd said he was "sore everywhere."

"Like you got hit by a Mack Truck," the senior offensive lineman explained.

"I've been in here getting treatment and getting my legs flushed and stuff, so I'm ready to go this week because it's going to be another war."

While Alabama slugged it out with LSU, Mississippi State sprinted past UT Martin.

The No. 1-ranked Bulldogs got to rest their starters. The No. 5-ranked Crimson Tide had no such luck.

Now the two get to meet in Bryant-Denny Stadium on Saturday for what promises to be another struggle in the trenches.

"Massive," Shepherd said to describe State's defensive line. "I still remember playing them last year and walking on the field and saying, 'Wow.' They're all 6-5, 6-6, big, physical guys."

It won't be easy, but Shepherd said it's important to "get back on our feet."

"We have to put the past in the past," he said.

It's true, there's nothing to be done about the physical toll Alabama took this past weekend. Starting running back T.J. Yeldon has to rest a few days to help his sprained ankle, for example.

But while trainers can help with the pain and soreness, it will ultimately come down to who wants it more.

"My body was sore and I was kind of mentally drained," Ragland said. "But we're playing the No. 1 team in the country. They're a very good team. We have to come out and reestablish our focus on them and get our bodies back right."

Said coach Nick Saban: "I think it's the mindset that is the most important thing for guys to ... not give what I call relief syndrome -- like we just won a big game so we're supposed to get a week off, go to the golf resort. It's the wrong time of the year. We have another tough game coming up."

For both Alabama and Mississippi State, the stakes couldn't be higher. The Crimson Tide can't afford another loss. It would hand the Bulldogs the SEC West and simultaneously knock Alabama out of playoff contention.

So while the body has its limits, motivation shouldn't be a factor.

"Mentally, we just have to put this last game behind us and keep looking forward," Sims said, "and realize that this is the next step to get to the promised land."