Saturday, November 12th, will see Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide invade Starkville to take on the Bulldogs. Alabama will obviously try to repeat the result of last years game while Mullen and the Bulldogs would like nothing more than to remind Nick of his Alabama debut in Starkville back in 2007. If the latter happens, the above photo is a preview of how Saban will most likely react.
MSU entered Tuscaloosa after an off week last year, but the emotional week before was anything but an "off" week to say the least. The Bulldogs were forced to enter Bryant-Denny Stadium with heavy hearts after the sudden loss of teammate Nick Bell and the roller coaster ride of emotions proved too much. Mississippi State never really seemed to be in the game and wound up with a painful 30-10 loss that also snapped a six game winning streak.
This year things are obviously different. The Tide no longer has star players Greg McElroy, Mark Ingram or Julio Jones to rely on. I wish I could say that the loss of those players is something to get excited about, but this is Alabama we're talking about.
Nicholas Lou Saban doesn't panic after losing star players like those guys. He simply reloads the gun and gets ready for a new year.
The Bulldogs enter the 2011 season riding on a wave of high expectations and confidence. If the first three quarters of the season go well, they should be primed and ready to give the Crimson Tide a good game.
If the Dawgs are going to win, their first obstacle is Trent Richardson. Richardson fills the void left by Ingram quite well and he was a major contributor to the Tide offense last year. The hype has already begun concerning Richardson as a serious Heisman Trophy candidate for the 2011 season. It wouldn't surprise me if he turns out to be far better than Ingram and that is a pretty unsettling thought.
Alabama seems to be in good shape when it comes to wide receivers. They've got two seniors in Marquis Maze and Darius Hanks. Maze is definately a guy to be concerned about when you consider the fact that last year he had 38 catches for over 500 yards and three touchdowns.
The offensive line is returning four of its five starters and they've got plenty of depth. Thats a really big deal because there will be a new quarterback taking snaps for Alabama this year. The experience on the offensive line will give the young qb plenty of time to make a good throw.
Speaking of the qb position, it is still up for grabs between sophomore A.J. McCarron and redshirt freshman Phillip Sims. One would have to give McCarron the edge right now considering the fact that he has game experience (he was McElroy's back up last year).
If you've forgotten who A.J. McCarron is, let me refresh your memory. During last year's game against MSU, Nicholas Saban gave the lad a good spanking on national television:
As of this posting, Nick's stance on both players remains pretty much the same...the qb postion is still wide open.
The Alabama defense will be scary good...if they can all stay healthy. Linebacker Dont'a Hightower struggled with knee problems last season, but off season surgery appears to have corrected the issue. Despite the injured knee, Hightower was widely considered to be one of the best players in the nation last season. Just imagine how good he'll be if that knee holds up.
The Alabama secondary has another big time player that has had recent struggles with injury. Mark Barron has battled a torn pectoral muscle, but it seems he'll be ready to go by the first game of the season.
Like all football games, this one will most certainly be won in the trenches. Mississippi State has questions to be answered regarding their offensive line and the gaping hole Derek Sherrod left. Alabama's defensive line was never a real threat with the pass rush last year and there are many who wonder if there will be more of the same this year.
The Bulldog defense will be good, but you can count on Alabama finding ways to get points on the board. I think the key area will be how well our offensive line matches up against the Alabama defensive line. Relf and company have got to score early and keep 'Bama pinned down the entire game. If the Bulldogs fall far behind early, this game will be over.
On paper, you've gotta give the edge to Alabama in this one. Let's just be thankful the game is in Davis-Wade and hope for the best. The fans will certainly have to help out. If the crowd gets loud enough, Alabama's young quarterback could make some costly mistakes, and if that happens, there may very well be another 'Bama quarterback with a sore hiney after the game.