Game Day Preview: What you need to know about Alabama-Mississippi State
There’s not much compelling history between Alabama and Mississippi State. The Crimson Tide own a 79-17-3 all-time mark against the Bulldogs, who haven’t beaten ‘Bama since Nick Saban’s first year in 2007.
Last year’s contest between two elite teams was fun, though. No. 1 MSU traveled to Tuscaloosa, where No. 4 Alabama ran out to a 19-0 lead and held on for a 25-20 victory, ruining the Bulldogs’ first-ever 9-0 start.
Saturday’s game will have a similar impact on the national title race. Here is everything you need to know about Alabama-Mississippi State before kickoff:
No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide (8-1, 5-1 SEC) vs. No. 17 Mississippi State Bulldogs (7-2, 3-2 SEC)
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 14, 3:30 pm ET (CBS)
Weather: 59 degrees, sunny, zero percent chance of rain (Weather.com)
Line: Alabama -8
By the numbers
100 – Total career touchdowns for Dak Prescott, who hit both the 100-score mark (sixth player in SEC history to do so) and the 10,000-yard mark (10th player in SEC history to do so) at Missouri last Thursday.
75.8 – Average number of rushing yards Alabama allows per game. The Crimson Tide cut that number down from 93.5 when LSU and former Heisman Trophy favorite Leonard Fournette visited last Saturday. MSU’s rushing offense (147.1 yards per game) is ranked 94th in the country.
4 – Wins in a row for the Bulldogs, their longest streak since winning their first nine games last season. Alabama ended that with a 25-20 win at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Storylines to watch
MSU’s senior quarterback will need to create much of the Bulldogs offense himself. But buying time — either inside or outside the pocket — is a nearly impossible task against a fierce Alabama front. The Bulldogs don’t run the ball particularly well, so the connection between Prescott and star receiver De’Runnya Wilson (eight touchdowns) will need to hurt a ‘Bama secondary that has shown a few more holes than the front seven.
If Prescott can’t get things going through the air, then this one could be over in the first half. On the other side of the ball, MSU is 43rd in passing defense (201.7 yards per game) and 67th in rushing defense (167.7). The Bulldogs “D” will need to step up — big — to contain new Heisman Trophy favorite Derrick Henry. Essentially: A lot of things need to break Mississippi State’s way for it to hang with Alabama.
Tide rises in biggest games
Since a 43-37 loss to Ole Miss on Sept. 19, Alabama has been a machine against ranked teams. The Crimson Tide have rolled to a combined 109-49 advantage at No. 3 Georgia, at No. 8 Texas A&M and vs. No. 2 LSU.
The pair of road games were especially tough to watch for home crowds; Alabama had halftime leads of at least 15 points in both. So don’t expect the cowbells to make too much of a difference early; Nick Saban’s team is well prepared and — if recent history is any guide — laser focused on the task at hand.
SEC West implications
Alabama simply needs to win its next three (at MSU, vs. Charleston Southern, at Auburn) to clinch the SEC West title.
But things get hairy if State can pull off the upset Saturday. The Bulldogs would be right back in the title chase, needing just one more LSU loss and a rivalry win over Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl to make their first-ever SEC Championship Game appearance.
Prediction: Alabama 37, Mississippi State 20
The Bulldogs simply don’t have enough talent to stack up to the Crimson Tide.
As MSU coach Dan Mullen says every year: “Alabama has more 5-star guys riding the bench than we have on our entire team.”
In most situations like this one — a highly-ranked team visiting a formidable, ranked opponent — you might expect a big letdown, but Saban has proved that Alabama takes its “game by game” approach seriously.
Look for Prescott to struggle early while he tries to adapt to the ferocious Alabama rush, and expect at least one big defensive or special teams play from the Crimson Tide to put this one out of reach.