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The Mississippi State Bulldogs host the Alabama Crimson Tide Saturday in an SEC West division matchup. MSU is coming off a bye week after dismantling Arkansas 54-24 two weekends ago. Before that, the Bulldogs had lost four games in a row all by double digits. Alabama narrowly lost to LSU 46-41 this past Saturday in the game of the year so far. The Crimson Tide fell behind 33-13 at halftime before nearly pulling off a remarkable comeback.
Bulldogs head coach Joe Moorhead said at his press conference Monday that for his team to win, "we're not going to have to do the extraordinary; we're going to have to do the ordinary extraordinarily well." MSU is one of the top rushing teams in the nation led by back Kylin Hill, who ranks 13th in the country with 1,027 yards on the ground. Freshman quarterback Garrett Shrader is a bit inconsistent behind the pocket with seven touchdowns to five interceptions. The Bulldogs defense gives up 30.2 points per game.
Alabama remains one of the College Football Playoff favorites despite its home loss to LSU. Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa returned from injury to throw 418 yards and four touchdowns against the Tigers. He is reportedly a game-time decision Saturday, with Alabama's other option at QB being sophomore Mac Jones. The Crimson Tide have a number of options at running back but most like to use Najee Harris, who has over 100 yards rushing in three of his last four games. Defense is a concern for Alabama after they allowed 559 yards to LSU.
All eyes on Tua as Bama looks to reboundAlabama head coach Nick Saban is not one to give in to conventional wisdom, but he may be smart to follow advice from the pundits and rest Tua Tagovailoa Saturday. The Crimson Tide are still in decent position to make the College Football Playoff but a worst case scenario would involve an injury to their star quarterback. Backup Mac Jones played well against Arkansas a couple weeks ago, throwing for three touchdowns and completing 82% of his passes. Saban should have enough confidence that Jones can succeed against a defense that allows the third most points in the SEC.
“Mac’s got to get ready to go every week. He’s the backup quarterback,” Saban told reporters Wednesday. “Obviously, we’re not going to play somebody in the game that’s not capable of playing. We’re not going to play somebody in the game who hasn’t practiced enough to be able to play in the game effectively and do his job effectively."
When it comes to rushing the ball, Alabama's go-to guy is Najee Harris. While the Crimson Tide generally struggled against LSU, Harris had a prolific day with 146 rushing yards and one touchdown. He scored two rushing touchdowns in both of the prior two games. Expect to see him get upwards of 20-25 carries as he faces off a Mississippi State defense that allows 162 rushing yards per game.
The defense of Alabama surely found itself in the doghouse this week after allowing 46 points to LSU including 33 in the first half. Fortunately for the Crimson Tide, they'll only have to face the Tigers again if both teams are in the Playoff. Alabama's defensive line should be able to prevent from running all over the field. Junior defensive back Xavier McKinney leads the Crimson Tide with 69 tackles as well as two forced fumbles and an interception.
Mississippi State goes for year's biggest upsetMississippi State's game plan for Saturday is pretty straight forward: they're going to run the ball, a lot. The Bulldogs like to utilize the run as much as anyone in the SEC, which is why running back Kylin Hill leads the conference in rushing yards. Hill carries the ball for respectable 5.8 yards per attempt and tallied 234 yards against Arkansas two weeks ago. He should have success against an Alabama rush defense that's good but not great. Will that be enough to keep MSST in this one?
To put in perspective just how much the Bulldogs like to run the ball, Hill has more rushing yards (1,027) than quarterback Garrett Shrader has passing (1,022). Shrader, a freshman from Charlotte, missed the Arkansas game due to injuries but is expected to compete Saturday. The other option at quarterback is grad transfer Tommy Stevens, who never found a starting role in four years at Penn State. Stevens threw for 172 yards and two touchdowns against the Razorbacks.
The Bulldogs defense allows 389.2 yards per game and allowed 49 points to Texas A&M in late October. MSST gives up 7.6 yards per pass attempt which ranks 118th nationally. Alabama's quarterback is liable to carve up the Bulldogs secondary if stats on paper give any indication. One playmaker on defense to watch out for is linebacker Erroll Thompson, an Alabama kid who left his home state to play in Starkville. He has a team high 63 tackles.
- Bulldogs are 1-4 ATS in their last five games overall.
- Bulldogs are 1-4 ATS in their last five games following a straight up win of more than 20 points.
- Bulldogs are 0-4 ATS in their last four games on grass.
The top supporting trends for this game, found on covers.com, are:
- Crimson Tide are 4-1 ATS in their last five road games vs. a team with a losing home record.
- Crimson Tide are 4-1 ATS in their last five games after allowing more than 40 points in their previous game.
The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
Alabama took a blow last week with a home loss to LSU but don't let that deter you from taking the Crimson Tide here. Whether Tua Tagovailoa plays or not, the Alabama offense should have a field day against a Mississippi State secondary among the least effective in the country. Alabama's backup quarterback Mac Jones threw for three touchdowns against an Arkansas defense comparable to the one the Bulldogs will field Saturday. The Tide should run away with this one.
Prediction: Alabama Crimson Tide -17.5
Full-Game Total Pick
The o/u opened at 62.5 at most sportsbooks but was quickly bet down a point to a point and a half. I'm going with the over on the belief that Alabama is going to light up the scoreboard. The Crimson Tide offense showed plenty of moxie in the second half against LSU and should come out ready to dominate a weak Mississippi State defense. What's more, the over is 4-1-1 in Crimson Tide last 6 road games. Go over here and you won't regret it.
Prediction: Over 61