Alabama's defense is real, real good. They are ranked #1 in the country in basically everything. So there is no question who has the upper hand here - it's Alabama. But the questions will be..
- Will Mississippi State's offense be able to move the ball enough to prevent Alabama's offense from getting great field position?
- Can they get positive yards on first down?
- Will they keep a zero in the turnover stat line?
- How will Blaine Clausell, Dillon Day, and Charles Siddoway handle a game like this?
- Can Malcolm Johnson and Marcus Green get open for key 3rd down conversions?
(Position previews: MSU receivers vs. Bama secondary, running back comparison, MSU O-line vs. Bama D-line.)
I really think State will need to drag this thing out if they want to have a chance to win. Getting into the 4th quarter is the key. That means the most important job for the offense is not to make stupid mistakes - turnovers, penalties, etc. Don't get sacked and force a punt out of our own endzone. Russell needs to get the ball out of his hands quickly even if it means an incomplete pass. I don't think taking shots 20 yards down-field on your own 30 is a good move...play field position and hang around. This is especially important in the 1st half going into a hostile environment - don't call risky plays that could put you behind the 8 ball against the #1 team.
I'd like to see Perkins running right at big NG Jesse Williams. Josh Robinson too. I think Robinson could play a key role with his low center of gravity, and just picking up 2 or 3 yards on 1st down is a good play.
If Alabama wants to stop the run, they will stop the run....so State has to be balanced. Bumphis should get the ball early and often, let him makes some yards with his feet as much as yards through the air. Utilize Perkins in the passing game - screens are a great play to use in a game like this.
The way Tyler Russell has shown poise all year long, I feel like he will play his game fairly well. He has played in big stadiums like Death Valley and even Bryant Denny in 2010. My biggest concern is for the three lineman I mentioned above: Siddoway, Day and Clausell. They have never played in a game like this, especially Siddoway. But he is a junior, so maybe that will help. Bottom line, these guys will need to be focused on who they are playing and not the stage they are playing on - their game preparation and execution is vital to the success of this offense.
Tobias Smith's health will be key. We have seen on many occasions how he can really make the offense click. His presence on the field will be doubly felt here as he is the leader of the O-line, and he will be counted on for that role so Russell can focus on playing his game in that hostile environment. And the deeper the game goes with State still in it, the more hostile it will become.
Manage the game, don't make mistakes, and get it to the 4th quarter. State can do that, and if they are able to anything can happen late.
I believe. Hail State.