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MSU Receivers vs. Alabama Secondary

Two of the SEC's top quarterbacks in 2012 will battle Saturday but they will only be as good as their receivers and opposing secondaries.

Spruce Derden-US PRESSWIRE

Let's take a look at two important aspects of the SEC's most anticipated game of the week... Or at least the most anticipated game in the states of Alabama and Mississippi.

Mississippi State Receivers:

  • Tyler Russell's go-to guy is Chad Bumphis. Bump will go into Saturday's game No. 8 in the SEC with 479 total yards on 29 catches. He averages 16.5 yards a catch and has an SEC receiver-leading six touchdowns through seven games. He was somewhat quiet last week against MTSU with only one catch for 11 yards, his lowest outing all season. If he stays quiet Saturday night you could definitely assume someone else would need to step into the spotlight.
  • Enter Chris Smith. Smith, No. 20 in the SEC, has 26 catches, 293 yards (11.3 yards a catch), and two touchdowns. As you can read, there's a big jump from MSU's No. 1 receiver to their No. 2.
  • After Chad and Chris, Arceto Clark and tight end Marcus Green have stepped up big the last seven games. Clark only has 15 catches but all have been crucial plays for the Bulldogs. Green also has 15 receptions with five touchdowns. Green has been by far the biggest impact on Russell's success thus far this season.
  • Other MSU players that could make huge catches Saturday include running back LaDarius Perkins, Brandon Heavens, Robert Johnson, Jameon Lewis, Brandon Hill, Joe Morrow, Sylvester Hemphill, Malcolm Johnson, Adrian Marcus, Ricco Sanders, or Derrick Milton.
  • Overall, MSU receivers have a total of 130 catches, 1,655 total yards (12.7 yards a catch), 16 touchdowns, and average 236.4 yards a game. MSU's opponents have seven more catches, over 300 fewer yards, 11 fewer touchdowns, and average less than 50 fewer yards a game. Massive differences that play a big role in MSU's 7-0 record.
Alabama Secondary:
  • Alabama will more than likely start cornerbacks Deion Belue and Dee Milliner and safeties Robert Lester and Nick Perry. The Crimson Tide lost three secondary starters last season to the NFL. Lester was the only starter in last year's rotation.
  • Lester, Milliner, and Belue all have two interceptions this season. None have returned the picks for touchdowns.
  • Here's the kicker: Saban spends an unusual amount of time with this secondary. He's recruited some of the best defenders in the nation to fill huge shoes for this team.
  • The Tide's biggest test this season was easily last week against Tennessee and Tyler Bray. Alabama held the nation's No. 16 quarterback who, going in, averaged 288 passing yards per game to only 184 yards. Bray also threw two way-off passes that resulted in interceptions. They held two of the SEC's biggest star receivers, Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson, to a combined 95 yards and zero touchdowns.
In the end, Alabama has faced some doubt this season. That doubt is their secondary. Other than Tennessee, the Tide hasn't truly been battle-tested with passing. State could definitely be that first big test. But lots of critics say MSU's biggest question mark is their schedule in general. Is State's offense just "good" due to the schedule or is it truly an SEC caliber points machine? Will Tyler Russell find much needed holes in the Alabama secondary? Or will a confident national championship-type squad cause havoc for MSU's offense? Something must give, folks.