Kickoff is scheduled for 6:15pm CT, and will be televised by ESPN2.
Below, I give my analysis of each phase of the game, what to expect and a score prediction.
Phase 1: Alabama Offense vs. Mississippi State Defense
If Trent Richardson can’t play; and if Mark Ingram isn’t able to carry the load every down and be as dynamic as he used to be; Alabama has to use Eddie Lacy, Demetrius Goode or Jalston Fowler at running back. The lack of commitment to the power running game is really hurting the offense and the team’s physicality. Mississippi State plays 2-deep safeties a lot. MSU may be less willing to overload the box than past opponents with great corners. Alabama must throw the ball down the field in the passing game. Mississippi State has a good front seven but they can be worn down (i.e. UAB even in the win.) Will Alabama be able to do that is the key.
Phase 2: Mississippi State Offense vs. Alabama Defense
Mississippi State has a complex offense that’s based on deception and misdirection. MSU is willing to do what it has to do to win games. Against Florida, the Bulldogs ran the ball 24 straight plays. Dan Mullen will take the air out of the ball and as I call it “dumb down” the game. That means the game will come down to a few critical plays, if MSU plays great. Alabama’s defense will have to play sound assignment football. The Tide does play its assignments pretty well overall but some players tend to lose their concentration on a few plays a game. Those plays often turn into big plays and critical third and fourth down conversions. Can MSU throw the ball well enough to take advantage of blown coverages in the Bama secondary? If MSU is balanced with its productivity, it could be dicey for the Tide.
Phase 3: Special Teams
This is a slight advantage for Alabama. Mississippi State’s place-kicking on field goals is limited and inconsistent. Alabama has to get some explosive games in the return game. The Crimson Tide should be much more productive with the talent available.
Mississippi State always plays-up for Alabama. It’s been a long, rough two weeks for the Bulldogs with the death of player Nick Bell and the Cam Newton recruitment investigation hovering over the program. Despite the game being at Bryant-Denny, where Alabama has been dominant under Nick Saban, I think this is a dangerous game for Alabama. This win will mean even more to Dan Mullen and the program than winning at Florida. This game will say a lot about Alabama. Does Alabama’s young core of the football team have the maturity to respond to the second loss of the year with a great performance. The last and only time under Nick Saban in the past three years that this team hasn’t had a national championship to play for ahead of them was the Sugar Bowl versus Utah. Will Alabama players be as disinterested as they were in that game? Or, will Alabama show it is still one of the most talented teams in the country that wants to finish strong? I think Nick Saban and his staff will get the message across to the Alabama players. I don’t know how great Alabama will be, but the Crimson Tide should still win.
Alabama 27 Mississippi State 14
Check back after the game for a complete recap of the game with observations and immediate analysis of the game, along with game notes.