Mississippi State at Alabama
This Saturday the No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide will host the No. 11 Mississippi State Bulldogs in a SEC West showdown that will have huge implications on who will play in the SEC title game. Both teams have yet to lose inside conference play. Alabama has dominated this series in recent years, as they have won four straight including a 24-7 victory at Mississippi St last year. Kickoff is scheduled for 8:30 EST at Bryant-Denny Stadium and will be televised nationally on ESPN.
For those of you looking to place a wager on this matchup, oddsmakers currently have Alabama favored by 23.5 points over Mississippi State with the total set at 47.5 points.
The Bulldogs are a perfect 7-0 overall and 3-0 inside the SEC, but this team hasn’t exactly played the toughest schedule. Their three conference wins have come against the likes of Auburn, Kentucky and Tennessee, while their four non-conference opponents have been Jackson State, Troy, South Alabama and Middle Tennessee. That’s why this team is still ranked outside of the Top 10 despite having not suffered a loss. They will get their chance to prove they are for real on Saturday against the best team in the country.
Mississippi State features a pretty balanced attack offensively that comes in averaging 235.9 ypg through the air and another 181.0 ypg on the ground. The Bulldogs have scored 27 or more in all seven games this year and are currently 27th in scoring offense at 36.7 ppg.
They have got outstanding production out of all the key skill positions. Junior quarterback Tyler Russell has completed 60% of his attempts for 1,573 yards with an impressive 15 touchdowns to just one interception. Junior running back LaDarius Perkins has emerged into a force running the ball, as he has 724 yards and eight touchdowns on 125 attempts. The Bulldogs also have a couple of talented playmakers at receiver in Chad Bumphis (29 catches, 479 yards, 6 TDs) and Chris Smith (26 catches, 293 yards, 2 TDs).
We will find out just how good this offense really is when they lineup against the best defense in the country. Alabama leads the nation in scoring defense (8.3 ppg) and total defense (195.6 ypg). They have the top ranked run defense in the nation, allowing a mere 58.7 ypg on the ground and the 2nd ranked pass defense that is giving up just 136.9 ypg.
The Crimson Tide improved to 7-0 with a dominant 44-13 win at Tennessee this past weekend. Alabama is now 4-0 in SEC play, but they too have not exactly been tested to this point. Their four conference wins have come against Arkansas, Ole Miss, Missouri and Tennessee, who are a combined 3-12 inside the SEC. The difference between the Crimson Tide and the Bulldogs is the way in which Alabama has won its games. Their closest game of the season is a 19-point win over Ole Miss, every other game has been decided by 27 points or more.
Alabama has been able to bury teams with a dominant running attack and strong play from their veteran quarterback A.J. McCarron. The Crimson Tide come in ranked 20th in the country averaging 219.4 ypg on the ground. The duo of junior Eddie Lacey and true freshman T.J. Yeldon have been about as good a combo in the country. Lacey has rushed for 570 yards and seven touchdowns, while Yeldon has 565 yards and six scores.
While McCarron doesn’t get a lot of the credit offensively, he has played brilliantly so far this season. McCarron has completed 68.8% of his attempts for 1,476 yards with 16 touchdowns and no interceptions. He could probably do even more in the passing game if needed, but when you have a running game and defense as dominant as the Crimson Tide there is no reason to throw the ball a ton.
Another true freshman is making a name for himself other than Yeldon, wide out Amari Cooper leads the team with 28 catches for 425 yards and six touchdowns, and has just recently became a big part of the offense. He had just 5 catches for 73 yards over the first three games. He has 23 catches for 352 yards and four touchdowns over his last four games, including 7 receptions for 162 yards and two scores last Saturday against Tennessee.
So far the Crimson Tide have been able to impose their will on every defense they have come up against. It’s going to be interesting to see how much of a challenge Mississippi State will give them this weekend. The Bulldogs are 47th in the country against the run (139.1 ypg) and 21st against the pass (188.6 ypg).
The home team has been the strongest bet in this series, covering in four of the last five meetings. We have also seen the UNDER go a perfect 5-0 during that same stretch. Mississippi State is 10-4 ATS in their last 14 games overall, 5-1 ATS over their last 6 vs a team with a winning record, but are just 2-5 ATS over their last 7 road games. Alabama is 5-1 ATS in their last 6 conference games, but are only 1-5 ATS over their last 6 home games.