Mississippi State (6-3, 2-3) at Alabama (9-0, 6-0)
When: 2:30 p.m., Saturday
TV/Radio: CBS; FM-93.9, AM-920, AM-1400
The series: Alabama leads 82-17-3
The line: Alabama by 26.5
1. LSU hangover: Alabama possibly is most complete game against the first real dangerous opponent of the season in beating LSU 29-0 last week. Mississippi State is not quite as dangerous as the Tigers, simply because they will be playing in Tuscaloosa and not at home. But the Bulldogs are capable of pulling the upset, so Alabama can’t afford to relax until next week when the Citadel comes to Bryant-Denny Stadium. Then the team will get a breather.
2. The Fitzgerald factor: MSU quarterback Nick Fitgerald was a Heisman Trophy contender before the season, but that opportunity is now a thing of the past. Fitzgerald is the top rushing quarterback in SEC history and he showed against Auburn what can happen when he gets moving behind a good Mississippi State O-line. He’s no Tua Tagovailoa as a passer, but he’s just dangerous enough to force Alabama to have to respect the passing game. Alabama will crowd the line of scrimmage. If Fitzgerald can hit some plays in the passing game, Mississippi State could take this game into the fourth quarter.
3. Consider this: LSU’s defense held Alabama to 25 points under its season scoring average and still lost by 25 points. That’s how scary good Alabama is this year. With the emergence of a seemingly unstoppable passing attack, some people wondered what happened to the always-dominant running attack The Tide answered that question in a big way against LSU, gaining 281 yards on 37 carries. The defense also answered the bell, blanking LSU and holding the Tigers to 12 rushing yards and 196 total yards. It was dominant from start to finish.
4. More Tua: With Jalen Hurts hobbled and unable to play against LSU, that left backup duties to Mac Jones, normally the third-string quarterback. There was a collective holding of their breath by Alabama coaches and fans when Tagovailoa was hit low during a play on which Alabama was called for a false start. There was more trepidation when he kind of limped back to the sideline after scoring on a 44-yard run in the fourth quarter. It turned out he was fine both times and nobody is saying Jones couldn’t do the job, but there were some anxious moments on both occasions because of Tua’s fragile knee.
Alabama’s Quinnen Williams vs. MSU O-line
Williams has stepped up this season with his play at nose guard. In last week’s win over LSU, Williams harassed Joe Burrow seemingly on every play and was instrumental in the Tigers only gaining 12 yards on the ground. Williams has emerged as possibly the best interior defensive lineman in college football, and Mississippi State will have to find a way to contain him if it is going to establish any sort of a running attack.
Jeudy is putting together an All-American type of season. He leads all SEC receivers with 10 TD catches on only 39 catches. His 880 receiving yards is second in the SEC to Ole Miss’ AJ Brown, who has 920 yards. That total, though, is on 66 catches. Jeudy’s production comes on 4.3 catches per game. Jeudy’s 10 touchdowns is tied for fifth most in the conference. He’s the only receiver in the top five.
3 – Number of offensive categories in which Alabama leads the SEC – scoring offense, total offense, pass efficiency.
4 – Number of defensive categories in which Mississippi State leads the SEC – scoring defense, total defense, passing defense, pass efficiency defense.
10: Consecutive wins for Alabama over Mississippi State, including last season’s 31-24 decision.
62: Number of touchdowns Alabama has scored this season – 18 more than Ole Miss’ next best total and 28 more than Mississippi State.
Alabama 42, Mississippi State 7
Can Mississippi State upset Alabama? Yes. Will it? No, and here’s why – Alabama is simply too efficient on offense and Mississippi State doesn’t have the ability to score enough points. As note, LSU held Alabama to 25 points under its scoring average and still got whipped. Mississippi State has a better defense than LSU but even if it holds the Tide to 24 or 28 points, it’s doubtful the Bulldogs can score than much to have a chance at the end.