Things continue to be busy in the SEC West as the number one team in the nation travel to play number five Alabama in one of the most important games left to help determine what teams goes on to play for the conference title and get into the College Football Playoff.
The Bulldogs are one of three undefeated teams this season in Division I and has held the top spot in the committee rankings on all three weeks of their poll release. Alabama took a short tumble when they lost on the road to Ole Miss, but have found themselves back in contention for a spot, with one or two going to the SEC. Right now, the committee is spreading the love between four conferences, leaving Alabama out of the picture.
Mississippi State have pulled off some big wins this season, including winning 34-29 on the road against LSU in a game that wasn’t as close while beating Auburn 38-23 at home. They also helped crumble Texas A&M’s promising start, but since then the Aggies have rarely been impressive anyway. Alabama also won at Baton Rouge, winning 20-13 in overtime against an LSU team that simply can’t move the ball in the air.
At home, Alabama don’t run into difficulties, winning their games by an average of 40 points. They beat Texas A&M 59-0 and manhandled Florida 42-21. The wins over Florida Atlantic and Southern Miss are a little less telling about their true ability. They have also allowed just one red zone touchdown when playing at home, giving up only five red zone trips. Their defensive conversion in these situations, 20% is also the best in College Football.
The big matchup will be the Mississippi State physical offense with Dak Prescott charging forward, especially on first down, and how Alabama’s defense hold them. Mississippi State have 43 plays this season of 20 yards or more on first down, more than anyone else in the nation. Alabama have allowed only six such plays out of the game, less than anyone else in the nation. But Mississippi State are a problem on third down as well. throwing nine touchdown passes and rushing for five touchdowns as well. Overall, he has thrown or run for 30 touchdowns this season so far, best in the SEC.
While Blake Sims has mostly been doing well this season, Alabama’s most frightening offensive weapon is Amari Cooper. He has been responsible for 48% of Alabama’s receiving yards. He leads FBS with 22 receptions for 20 yards or more, and ranks second in the nation with 1215 receiving yards this season. Alabama’s next most productive receiver, DeAndrew White, has only 26 receptions for 279 yards.
In 2006 and 2007, Mississippi State won two games in a row against Alabama. Since then it’s been six consecutive losses. The Bulldogs haven’t scored more than 10 points in any of those games and have been held to seven or less in five of the six encounters. If there was ever an opportunity to change something of the overwhelming dominance in Alabama’s favor, it seems to be that now is the perfect time.