Our summer preview series takes a look at Mississippi State's 8th opponent of the 2012 season: Alabama.
Mississippi State vs. Alabama - Saturday, October 27, 2012 - Tuscaloosa
Quick Facts: University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa
- Location: Tuscaloosa, Ala.
- Enrollment: 31,747
- Founded: April 12, 1831
- Colors: Crimson and White
- Nickname: Crimson Tide
- First Season: 1892
- All-Time Record: 814-320-43 (.710)
- All-Time SEC Record: 358-163-20 (.680)
- National Championships: 14
- SEC Championships: 22
- Bowl Appearances: 59
- Bowl Victories: 33
- Head Coach: Nick Saban
- Alma Mater: Kent State, 1973
- Collegiate Career Record (Years): 141-54-1 (17)
- Alabama Record (Years): 50-12 (5)
- Offensive Coordinator: Doug Nussmeier
- Alma Mater: Idaho, 1993
- Defensive Coordinator: Kirby Smart
- Alma Mater: Georgia, 1999
- 2011 Overall Record: 12 - 1
- 2011 SEC Record/Finish: 7 - 1
- 2011 Bowl: National Championship
- Bowl Result: W - Alabama 22, LSU 0
- Full 2011 Statistics
- 2012 Returning Starters: 12 (6 offensive, 4 defensive, 2 special teams)
- 2012 Returning Lettermen: 43
- 2012 Fall Roster
2011 Opponent Season in Review
In 2011, Alabama proved that it's not who wins the battle, it's who wins the war that comes out on top at the end. After coasting with ease through the first half of their schedule, Alabama lost a tough 9-6 slugfest to fellow SEC West elite program LSU in Tuscaloosa in one of the most anticipated games in years. But despite losing that game in November, Alabama - behind head coach Nick Saban - never wavered, and after finishing out the final 3 games of their schedule with convincing wins, found themselves with a chance to make the national title game.
A controversial decision later, Alabama was again faced with squaring off with SEC West foe LSU, this time for the National Championship. But any and all doubts of whether they should be there or not were quickly erased as the Tide controlled the game throughout, and ultimately came away with a 21-0 win and the school's 14th National Title overall.
Individually, Alabama was led by Heisman finalist halfback Trent Richardson, who in his first year fully outside of Marcus Ingram's shadow did not disappoint, accounting for 1,679 rushing yards and 21 TDs. Oh yeah, and Ole Miss fans may remember this play he had against them up in Oxford. Eddie Lacy, the #2 RB at Bama in 2011, didn't have a bad year himself, adding 674 yards to Richardson's total while tacking on 7 TDs as well.
In the tradition of Alabama quarterbacks, A.J. McCarron had a solid year managing the Tide, accounting for 2,634 yards passing and 16 TDs. McCarron spent most of his time managing the vaunted Bama offense, but when he was asked to toss it around, he usually did so to guys like Marquis Maze (627 yards, 1 TD), Brad Smelley (356 yards, 4 TDs), and Darius Hanks (328 yards, 1 TD), among many others.
The defensive side is where Alabama really shined in 2011. The Bama defense produced 3 first round picks and 5 within the first five rounds, including names like LB Don'ta Hightower, CB Dre Kirkpatrick, S Mark Barron, and DE Courtney Upshaw.
Who To Watch For (Offense)
Eddie Lacy (RB - Jr., 6'0" / 220 lbs, Geismar, La)
A lot of people expect somewhat of a drop off between Richardson's 2011 performance and Lacy's in 2012, but I think Eddie will surprise a lot of people this year. I even took him as my #1 running back in last week's FWtCT SEC Draft. Lacy, however, will not be simply handed the starting spot at HB, as youngsters Dee Hart and T.J. Yeldon plan to compete for the job as well. Make no mistake though, no matter who emerges at the top of the depth chart when the season kicks off in 4 weeks, they are sure to have a great season running behind that big offensive line.
Doug Nussmeier - Offensive Coordinator
The price of producing successful teams is that often your coaching staff is highly sought after by other programs. This was the case for Alabama in 2011, as Colorado State tabbed former Alabama OC Jim McElwain as their new head coach last fall. Replacing McElwain is Doug Nussmeier, former OC at Washington from 2009-2011. Nussmeier coached with McElwain at Michigan State from 2003-2005. I wouldn't expect too much to change scheme wise for Alabama, but it will be something to watch as breaking in a new coordinator is always somewhat nerve wracking. Possibly look for Nussmeier to involve the tight ends more in the passing game, exploiting matchups with smaller DBs.
Barrett Jones - (OL - Sr., 6'5" / 302 lbs, Germantown, Tenn)
The leader of the offense up front, Jones is the 2011 Outland Trophy winner who passed up being a top 10 pick in the 2012 NFL Draft to return to school for his senior season. Jones will be transitioning a bit in his final season - sliding down from the left tackle spot where he was the nation's best to center - replacing veteran William Vlachos. Although it will certainly be a transition, I wouldn't expect much drop off from Barrett despite the position move. Jones leads a group touted as the best in the SEC - a group that also includes names like D.J. Fluker and Chance Warmack, among others. It's safe to say whoever is tabbed as the starting running back for Nick Saban will be greatly aided in his productivity by running behind this offensive line.
Who To Watch For (Defense)
Jesse Williams (DT - Sr., 6'4" / 320 lbs, Brisbane, Australia)
The next in a long line of physical freaks on the Alabama defensive front, Jesse Williams looks to have a breakout season in 2012. Oh, and if you haven't already heard, the guy can bench a pound or two (or 600 of them). Williams, an Australian who has only been playing football since he was 15, is a raw talent, but make no mistake, he's already come a long way in his short time on campus. Expect the big guy to have a big fall for Bama, and expect to hear his name called early at the 2013 NFL Draft.
C.J. Mosley (LB - Jr., 6'2" / 232 lbs, Theodore, AL)
You don't really fully replace a guy like Don'ta Hightower, but when you have a guy like C.J. Mosley stepping in to replace Hightower, you certainly like your chances. Mosley, tasked as the new quarterback of this defense, will look to pick up where Don'ta left off before heading off to the NFL last year. Expect Mosley to fill up the stat sheet this fall, and expect to see him playing on Sunday's with Hightower as well.
Alabama 28 - Mississippi State 13
State has traditionally struggled in Tuscaloosa, and I just don't see that changing this year. State may have more of a chance than in years past with Tyler Russell at the helm, but beating Alabama at Bryant - Denny is no small order, and anything short of a perfect game by State will most likely send us home with an L. I think it's closer than it was in year's past, but Alabama tacks on a late Lacy TD to set the final margin at 28-13.