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Mississippi State vs. Alabama Game Preview

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No. 2 Alabama visits Davis Wade for a showdown that has huge SEC West implications.

John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Where

Davis wade stadium

When

2:30 p.m.

TV

cbs

Mississippi State (7-2, 3-2) and Alabama (8-1, 5-1) square off for the 100th time in their history Saturday in front of a national audience on CBS.

The No. 17 Bulldogs and No. 2 Crimson Tide own the SEC's best overall record in the last 25 games. Each team has gone 20-5 over that span.

MSU is coming off a 31-13 Thursday night victory at Missouri that brought its winning streak to four games. Over those four victories, MSU has outscored its opponents by an average of 24 points.

Meanwhile, Alabama has been nearly flawless since losing to Ole Miss on Sep. 19. They notched their biggest win of the season last week when they dominated No. 2 LSU at home, 30-16.

Alabama can all but wrap up the SEC West with a win in Starkville. Should the Bulldogs win, however, we could be in for a wild ride the last two weeks of the season. MSU is right back in the thick of things if they pull off the upset.

In last year's meeting in Tuscaloosa, MSU spotted Bama a 19-point lead in the first half. State outscored Bama 20-6 from there on out and outgained the Tide in total yardage for the game, 428-335. However, it wasn't enough and Blake Sims utilized his legs in the fourth quarter to lead Alabama to a 25-20 win.

Where do they rank?

MSU offense                               Alabama defense

Points per game- 34.7 (37th)       Points per game- 16.3 (7th)

Total YPG- 443.4 (36th)                       Total YPG- 265.3 (3rd)

Passing YPG- 296.3 (20th)                 Passing YPG- 189.6 (26th)

Rushing YPG- 147.1 (94th)              Rushing YPG- 75.8 (2nd)

Alabama Offense                    MSU defense

Points per game- 33.1 (46th)            Points per game- 17.2 (11th)

Total YPG- 423.2 (47th)                    Total YPG- 369.3 (48th)

Passing YPG- 227.9 (65th)              Passing YPG- 201.7 (42nd)

Rushing YPG- 195.3 (36th)                Rushing YPG- 167.7 (68th)

Headlines to watch

Two different brands of offense

MSU and Alabama are the polar opposite of each other offensively. While State airs it out and capitalizes on long plays with Dak Prescott and a talented wide receiver corps, Bama pounds Derrick Henry to wear defenses down in the second half. MSU has scored 21 of its 37 touchdowns in two or less minutes, while Alabama owns the third highest time of possession in college football. It will be interesting to see which pace of play predominates the game. If it's slower, that obviously favors the Tide, but at the same time, State needs to string together long drives to keep its defense fresh.

Heisman hopefuls battle it out

Speaking of Henry and Prescott, this game could potentially go a long way to determine invites to New York. Henry has all but locked up an invite and is one of the favorites at this point. Dak remains a bit of a dark horse and voters have him listed as high as seventh. With a productive game Saturday, he would shoot up that list and be mentioned among Henry and Leonard Fournette. But most importantly, he needs a win. Dak racked up 372 total yards of offense in this game last season, but that went unnoticed because he threw three picks and State lost the game.

Future NFL linebackers

Look no further than the linebacker position if you want to know what makes the MSU and Alabama defenses great. Richie Brown and Reggie Ragland have stuffed the run all year for their respective teams, a big reason why these are two of the more difficult defenses to score on in the country. Brown and Ragland average more than eight tackles, and Brown also leads MSU with 5.5 sacks. Facing Bama's physical offensive line will be a test for him. When NFL scouts turn on the film, this is one of the first games they'll look at. He needs to show up and show out.

Amari Cooper 2.0

It seems like Alabama just replaces All-American receivers year in and year out with another superstar. Freshman Calvin Ridley is the next wideout in that Julio Jones, Amari Cooper mold. Ridley, like most freshmen, hasn't been consistent from game to game but he's proven he's capable of going off for over 100 yards on SEC defenses. He's easily quarterback Jake Coker's favorite target, and he's hauled in at least seven passes in each of the last four games. Ridley can make defenses pay down field and can also do some damage in the quick screen game.

Strength on strength

If there's one thing you can be certain to see, it's that Bama will match its best corner Cyrus Jones up against MSU's De'Runnya Wilson. I'm excited to see this matchup. While Wilson has the clear size advantage over Jones like several other SEC receivers, Jones usually makes up for that with his cover skills and leaping ability. De'Runnya has become Dak's favorite target in the red zone. Saban is no fool, and I guarantee you he'll tell Jones to cover De'Runnya no matter which side of the field he goes to. In the red zone, you'll see Jones on Wilson with a safety come down to double team.

Prepare for an ugly one

If you're one of those football fans who loves to watch flashy games with a lot of scoring, you might not want to tune into this one. The stats speak for themselves, and these defenses just don't allow a lot of points. They don't follow the same blueprint, MSU takes more of a bend but don't break approach. I'll be shocked if either team scores over 30 points, and it wouldn't surprise me if both offenses are held under 20. This is going to be one physical, ugly defensive struggle from the opening kickoff.

Prediction

It's the perfect storm for MSU to pull off the upset. They're coming off extended rest, while Bama comes in having played a physical, emotional game against LSU. I think the Tide will experience a bit of a hangover and MSU will take advantage of that. Derrick Henry will struggle to get going after carrying the ball 38 times last week against LSU. The cowbells will get to Jake Coker, and he'll struggle to convert on 3rd downs under pressure.

With that being said, Alabama's defense will pick up the slack to make up for a poor offensive showing. They will create a couple of turnovers that stall momentum for MSU's offense. The Bama D has thrived on the road this season, and you will see that again...... but not this week. Dak Prescott makes one too many plays with his arm and sticks the nail in the coffin with a fourth quarter TD drive to give MSU its biggest win in Dan Mullen's tenure.

MSU- 24 Alabama- 16