SEC bragging rights will be on the line on Saturday night when the #11 Mississippi State Bulldogs (7-0, 3-0 in SEC) travel down to Tuscaloosa to take on the #1 Alabama Crimson Tide (7-0, 4-0 in SEC) at Bryant-Denny Stadium, in what I like to call the finally we both played someone bowl. Both teams come into this battle coming off of huge, lopsided victories last week as Alabama crushed Tennessee 44-13 and Mississippi State destroyed Middle Tennessee 45-3.
The Crimson Tide are currently ranked first in the nation in both points allowed per game (8.3 points) and yards allowed per game (195.6 yards) which is the main reason why they are the number one team in the country in the BCS Standings, coaches poll and AP poll but their offense could be an Achilles heel for them in this contest if their D fails to stop the potent Mississippi State offense. Alabama’s offense is currently ranked just 75th in passing yards gained per game (220.1 yards), 21st in rushing yards gained per game (219.4 yards) but are 14th in points scored per game (41 points).
The Bama offense all starts with junior signal caller AJ McCarron who is having a very solid season passing for 1,476 yards and 16 touchdowns while completing 68.8% of his attempts and has yet to toss a single interception. McCarron will need to look down field and get the ball in the hands of phenomenal freshman wideout Amari Cooper (28 receptions for 425 yards and 5 TD) and junior wideout Kenny Bell (11 receptions for 252 yards and 2 TD) in order allow Mississippi State’s defense to unpack the box which they will undoubtedly do in attempts to stop the Crimson Tide’s running attack. Once the box is opened up then Alabama can force feed the ball to their dual running back attack of Eddie Lacy (99 carries for 570 yards and 7 TD) and T.J. Yeldon (83 carries for 565 yards and 6 TD).
The Bulldogs feature a more balanced attack of solid defense and potent offense than the Tide do, but then again they haven’t had to deal with a high caliber team such as Alabama either. Mississippi State is ranked 57th in passing yards gained per game (235.9 yards), 47th in rushing yards gained per game (181 yards), 27th in points scored per game (36.7 points), ninth in points allowed per game (14.4 points) and 26th in yards allowed per game (327.7 yards).
Mississippi will need their junior quarterback Tyler Russell to continue his fine play this season (1,573 passing yards for 15 TD, 1 INT and 60.1% completion rate) in this game and forget exactly who it is that he is facing on the other side. Russell will need to hook up with his three favorite receivers in the pass game Chad Bumphis (29 receptions for 479 yards and 6 TD), Marcus Green 14 receptions for 166 yards and 5 TD) and Chris Smith (26 receptions for 293 yards and 2 TD) in order to have a good shot at coming away with a huge upset victory. Junior running back LaDarius Perkins (125 carries for 724 yards and 8 TD) will also be a huge factor in the Bulldogs coming out with a win or not; if Perkins can have a strong game running the ball then the Bulldogs will have a strong chance of winning if he can’t then it could be a long and ugly day for the Dogs.
The x-factor in this game could be the play of Alabama free safety Robert Lester (20 tackles, 1.5 sacks and 2 INT this year), if he can make plays in both the passing and running game then Bama should cruise to another victory but if he struggles then Mississippi State has a legit chance of shocking the number one team in the nation. I like Alabama to win in this one, I just don’t see them losing this game at home. The Tide will roll 27-19.