TUSCALOOSA, Ala. —No. 1 Alabama (9-0, 6-0 SEC) hosts on Mississippi State on Saturday in Bryant-Denny Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for noon ET on ESPN.
Here are five things to watch:
5. Early kickoff
The early kickoff likely won’t affect the team or the players. But it’ll be interesting to see how the crowd looks at kickoff.
Alabama football isn’t used to having noon kickoffs for SEC games. Those are usually reserved for the non-conference opponents that come in and collect a check.
During his radio show Thursday, Alabama coach Nick Saban asked fans to show up early and be loud.
Saban knows how important the crowd is, especially when trying to make things tough on the opposing offense.
Will fans listen to Saban?
4. Show improvement in the passing game
LSU’s secondary is the best Alabama will face this regular season, and it showed. There weren’t a ton of windows. Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts missed some reads as well.
This is the type of game that could set up nicely for Alabama to work on its passing game.
If Alabama is to jump on Mississippi State early, we could see offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin put Hurts in some passing situations to see how he responds.
Hurts and the receivers have this week and the Chattanooga game to work out some of the issues before the Iron Bowl.
3. Shut them down early
Mississippi State jumped on Texas A&M early with two first quarter touchdowns. The Bulldogs built on its lead in the second quarter, adding two more scores before halftime.
Alabama can’t let something like that happen. The Crimson Tide need to shut down Mississippi State’s offense early, and not let them get rolling or confident.
Mississippi State is going to be extremely confident coming into this game. The Bulldogs just knocked off a team that was being mentioned as a possible playoff participant.
Alabama can’t let the Bulldogs hang around.
2. Protect the running backs
Freshman B.J. Emmons is out indefinitely. That leaves three running backs. Bo Scarbrough is dealing with a knee injury. Damien Harris has dealt with leg injuries all year. Freshman Joshua Jacobs is relatively healthy, but he was banged up earlier in the year.
Depth at running back was one of the question marks for Alabama heading into this season.
Things aren’t looking that great as the Tide head down the final stretch of the season.
Saban mentioned Derrick Gore as a guy who could help the team if needed. If guys keep getting hurt, he’ll be needed sooner rather than later.
1. Take care of business
Alabama is so close. The Crimson Tide just need to win three more games, and they’ll become the third team of the Saban era to finish the regular season undefeated.
Mississippi State won’t be an easy out, but Alabama is the more talented team.
They just have to play like it, and they’ll win.