In what may be the game of the week this weekend, number 16 Mississippi State heads to number 1 Alabama for an SEC showdown. The unbeaten Crimson Tide have won by an average margin of victory this season of 37 points. Alabama being dominant is nothing new, but the aerial attack afforded to Alabama via Tua Tagovailoa is. On Saturday it will be the job of the Mississippi State secondary to slow down this passing attack if they want to pull off the upset of the year.
Tua Tagovailoa hasn’t just been good this year, he’s been extraordinary. Tagovailoa’s numbers are chilling for opposing defenses this season. To date, Alabama is fifth in the nation in passing despite being in garbage time in most of the games by the fourth quarter. Tagovailoa has completed 68% of his passes for 2,361 yards, 27 touchdowns, and just one interception with a rating of 215.2.
Alabama doesn’t just move the ball either, they move it in chunks. Along with the 341.6 yards per game they average through the air, Tagovailoa is averaging 17.88 yards per completion. For Mississippi State to stun the nation on Saturday, they need to make Tagovailoa do something he really doesn’t do, and that’s turn the ball over.
Mississippi State is right in the middle of the nation in terms of passes intercepted. The nation low is two, the high 16, and Mississippi State has eight. In total, the defense is seventh in the nation against the pass, allowing a measly 167.2 yards per game. Currently there are two Bulldogs leading the team with two interceptions each and they are linebacker Eroll Thompson and defensive back Cam Dantzler.
The best plan of attack for the Bulldogs is to give Alabama the underneath plays and avoid the big play over the top. As a defense, Mississippi States wants to force Tagovailoa to play mistake-free, patient football where he will have to dink and dunk all the way down the field. If he hold’s the ball, they will need to get to him and force him into hurried throws and frustrate him. In short, make Alabama drive the ball and play at your pace on both sides of the ball.
Mississippi State is getting 24 points on Saturday according to early betting lines. This means that no matter what Bob Shoops schemes up, the Bulldogs have a heavy task ahead of them. This comes down to an old school football philosophy, slow down the pace on both sides, and dare Alabama’s high powered offense to win a dog fight. This all starts with slowing down the passing attack and getting some short fields on turnovers for Fitzgerald and Co.
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Do the Bulldogs pick of Tagovailoa on Saturday?
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Yes and more than once