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Cookin’ Up the Competition: Alabama Edition

Every 10 years you say?

Back this week on Cookin’ Up the Competition, we’ve got the Alabama Crimson Tide on the schedule next. Here to preview the #2 versus #16 matchup, we have Brent from Roll Bama Roll, our Alabama SB Nation friends. Brent also returned the favor over on their site, you can check that out here.

1) Last week, the College Football Playoff committee released their first rankings of the 2017 season and to the surprise of many, the Georgia Bulldogs jumped Alabama for the #1 spot, leaving the Tide at #2. Did that come as a surprise to Alabama fans, or was it just another newspaper clipping to put up in the locker room to help fuel the furnace?

Brent: It didn’t really come as a shock. Our schedule was supposed to be formidable, but then Florida State, Vandy, and Ole Miss all went on massive losing streaks after we beat them while Arkansas, Tennessee, and Texas A&M have underperformed all season. Meanwhile Georgia has wins over you guys and Notre Dame, which still look like pretty good wins. Georgia has the better strength of schedule with about the same results, so I can’t argue putting them ahead of us. But you can bet your britches there are videos of it playing in the weight room as the players work out every day.

2) The Crimson Tide is the only SEC West team that Dan Mullen has yet to celebrate a win over. The last time a MSU football team topped Alabama was in 2007 with the great Sly Croom at the helm. Not even in 2014 could Rayne Dakota Prescott take down the Tide after walking into Tuscaloosa as the #1 team in the nation. Now, the teams meet in Starkville as a #2 vs #16 matchup, as one of the more compelling games in this series we've had in the last decade. What do the Bulldogs have to do to walk out of Davis Wade Stadium with a win?

There’s no magic formula to beating Alabama as Gary Danielson would have you believe. It’s pretty simple, really: play good enough defense to keep our running game from moving the ball with ease while your quarterback has to really be on fire and trust his receivers to make plays down the sidelines. Alabama usually leaves the corners on an island on both sides of the field, so beating them deep and on back-shoulder fades is by far the best way to move the ball on our defense. I did say it was simple, not necessarily easy.

The other option is to pretend you’re that other college from your state, call the Football Gods down to make us turn the ball over every other possession, and throw bounce passes off of your own players’ helmets. That formula is also proven to work.. Your choice.

3) Todd Grantham's defense is currently ranked as #8 in the nation in total defense, which will make them, statistically, the toughest defense that Alabama has faced this year. How do you expect Saban and Co. will attack the Bulldog defense?

I still haven’t got a good grasp of being able to predict our new OC, Brian Daboll’s, playcalling, so take my words with a grain of salt. He’s generally went most of this season relying on the running game, both zone and power, to carry the load while letting Jalen Hurts throw slants, curls, drags, and other short-to-medium routes to keep the defense honest. I expect to see a lot more of that, especially with Grantham’s penchant for blitzing a lot.

As such, I don’t foresee as many longer drops with deep pass options for Hurts, as I figure your rush will be coming at him full speed ahead. A lot of slants and RB dump-offs seem more likely. Plus just a lot of running up the middle. It is what we do, after all.

4) Give me your top-to-bottom scouting report on Mississippi State QB1 Nick Fitzgerald.

I’ve been a big fan of Fitzgerald ever since he broke onto the scene last year. He’s a great runner and has the ability to slip tackles and fall forward just the right amount all the time to get the yards he needs..

As a passer, he’s got a lightning-fast release and can throw darts all day long, especially in the shorter passing game. He excels at timing routes such as slants, and has utter confidence in his arm—though sometimes to his own detriment, as he often has no qualms throwing to a man being covered tightly. On deeper throws, I don’t see a lot of touch. It’s like he’s still trying to dart things in there 30 yards down the field. He’s also got tremendous pocket presence and patience, and excels at keeping his feet set and his eyes scanning different receivers as the play changes around him. It’s a veteran quality, and probably my favorite bit of his game.

5) PREDICTION TIME: Currently, the Bulldogs are 14.5 point underdogs at home on Saturday night. Who are you putting your hypothetical money on and how do you see the game playing out?

I’m putting my money on Alabama winning, but not covering the spread. I think the Tide punches State in the mouth early and jumps to a quick 14-0 lead, but the depleted Alabama defense starts to let Fitzgerald rack up some first downs while the offense does it’s typical mid-game slump. By the start of the 4th quarter, we’re all getting nervous as State scores again to make the score 27-24, but Alabama ends up with a couple of big stops and a long drive to finish up the game by a final score of 37-24.