Alabama (8-1) at Mississippi State (5-4): Gameday Preview

November 12, 2011

News, Sports

Alabama @ Mississippi State

Alabama @ Mississippi State

Location: Starkville, MS

Time: 6:45 PM Central

TV: ESPN

Radio: 107.9 FM, WFCA

Listen Online:  http://tunein.com/radio/WFCA-1079-28690/

Initial Analysis: The Dan Mullen-led Mississippi State Bulldogs come into the conference matchup against BCS #3 Alabama riding a two game winning streak. The Bulldogs know that extending their winning streak will be a tall task; Alabama is one of nation’s perennial powers and are looking to get back in the national title picture after an overtime loss last Saturday against #1 LSU. The Bulldogs don’t have the luxury of getting a Crimson Tide team with nothing to play for this week. The Crimson Tide players are looking to take out some frustration on someone, and the Bulldogs better be ready for a physical game.

Offensive Stats

Alabama (Single-Back)

2011 Scoring Offense: 35.7

2011 Passing Yards Per Game: 225.1

2011 Rushing Yards Per Game: 214.4

MSU (Spread Option/No-Huddle)

2011 Scoring Offense: 27.9

2011 Passing Yards Per Game: 213.2

2011 Rushing Yards Per Game: 187.0

Defensive Stats

Alabama (3-4)

2011 Scoring Defense: 7.1

2011 Passing Yards Per Game Allowed: 130.7

2011 Rushing Yards Per Game Allowed: 56.3

MSU (Multiple Front)

2011 Scoring Defense: 18.7

2011 Passing Yards Per Game Allowed: 188.1

2011 Rushing Yards Per Game Allowed: 161.2

Players To Watch

Alabama

Trent Richardson: The Alabama offense begins and ends with Richardson. Everything they do offensively centers around how effective he is in their power run attack. If he doesn’t play well, then their offense is in trouble.

A.J. McCarron: McCarron has done a good job of managing the offense most of the season, but he was errant on a few throws against LSU. If he is erratic against Mississippi State, then I wouldn’t be shocked to see Phillip Sims under center by the end of the game.

Courtney Upshaw: Upshaw is Alabama’s premier pass rusher, and the MSU offensive line better be aware of which side he’s lining up on.

Mississippi State

Chris Relf: Relf has played well the past two games and may have played himself back into the starting role. The Crimson Tide had a little trouble against Jordan Jefferson–a player who is mobile like Relf. This would be a good game for Relf to get himself back in good graces with his teammates and the fan base.

Josh Boyd and Fletcher Cox: The Crimson Tide are a power run team that comes right at teams; they will grind the ball up the middle all night long.  Cox and Boyd will need to play the best game of their careers, if they hope to shut down the Crimson Tide’s rushing attack.

Deontae Skinner: Alabama likes to run on the strong side, and that will put the Bulldogs’ Sam Linebacker in the spotlight. I have a feeling this will be the game that Skinner announces himself to the rest of the SEC. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him have a ten plus tackle day.

Three Keys To Victory

Alabama

Stop The Option: Alabama had trouble with the option this past Saturday against LSU. I expect that they will see a heavy dose of it from the Bulldogs. If they can’t stop it, then the Bulldogs may be able to move the ball in their stout defense.

Fluster MSU Quarterbacks: Relf has struggled reading blitzes, and Russell is inexperienced, so the Crimson Tide must take advantage. If they bring heavy pressure, it could force one or both quarterbacks to make mistakes in the backfield.

Make Field Goals: This game could be close, and the Crimson Tide can’t afford to be sporadic in the kicking game again this week.

Mississippi State

Minimize Errors: The Crimson Tide feed off of turnovers, and do a great job of forcing them. If the Bulldogs play mistake-free football they have a chance to place themselves in position for an upset.

Ball Control: I’m normally not big on the play-not-to-lose strategy, but the Bulldogs might be wise to use the tactic versus Alabama. The Bulldogs’ best chance is to control the clock and try to take advantage of the few mistakes the Crimson Tide makes.

Load The Box: I wouldn’t even think of playing a standard 4-3 alignment. The Bulldogs should just bump ‘n run and play eight or nine players in the box. The Crimson Tide doesn’t really take many shots, and stopping Richardson should be the Bulldogs number one goal. I think loading the box would aid in stuffing their Heisman Trophy candidate.

Bonus:

Bring It: The Bulldogs lost last years’ game on the first drive as Alabama just blew them off the ball. I was almost embarrassed for them, because I knew they were better than that. The Bulldogs need to shake those big game jitters and just bring it.

Final Analysis: Most expect Alabama to roll, as many of their fans like to say. I disagree with their thought process as I evaluated Alabama. The Bulldogs have a strong chance to pull the upset if they play like they want it more. The Crimson Tide is the stronger of the two teams, but football is about matchups, and the Bulldogs match up well with them. Two other things work in the Bulldogs favor:  they are at home, and the Crimson Tide do not have an explosive offense. The game is poised to be a nail biter, and the Bulldogs just might stick with the Crimson Tide until the end. I do expect Alabama to pull it out, but I believe it will be closer than the experts think.

My Prediction: 17-10 Alabama

@JeremiahShort26

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