Expect SEC Slugfest Between Alabama and Mississippi State

Rainman M.

Friday, November 10, 2017 2:46 PM UTC

Friday, Nov. 10, 2017 2:46 PM UTC

No. 16 Miss State (7-2) hosts No. 2 Alabama (9-0) on Saturday in a big SEC showdown at 7 PM on ESPN. The Tide are favored by 14 and the total is set at 51.

Free NCAAF Picks: Miss State +14 & Under 51Best Lines Offered: Heritage

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Alabama Crimson Tide at Mississippi State Bulldogs

Alabama runs the ball almost twice as often as it passes. Statistically, the Tide rank 4th with 6.1 yards per carry. But last week they finally faced a tough defense in LSU and their season-low 3.2 YPC was alarming.  LSU's strategy was to stuff the interior and force quarterback Jalen Hurts to pass. Alabama's offensive plan was curiously obliging. The Tide's play-calling lacked creativity and their running backs were predictability stuffed in the middle.  The Tide seemed content with doing the least amount necessary to win, perhaps reserving their more creative play-calling for more difficult games.

The Tide tend to cover when something happens to motivate them, like when they smashed trash-talking Vanderbilt and responded to Coach Nick Saban's disappointment after a lackluster Texas A&M game by thrashing Arkansas. Otherwise, the predictable and conservative play-calling that Bama has suffered from without former coordinator Lane Kiffin has plagued them since the national championship game.

The key for Mississippi State defensively will be to contain Alabama's four starting-caliber running backs. The Bulldogs rank slightly higher than LSU, 44th in yards allowed per rush. They are first in the SEC in yards allowed after making initial contact. Defensive end Montez Sweat thrives in pursuit across the field and leads the defense in tackles for loss and sacks. Linebacker Dezmond Harris is the team's leading tackler. Both played a seminal role in limiting No. 1 Georgia to 1.1 YPC less than its season average.

The Bulldogs are likewise a run-first team. Their offensive identity will seek fruition against a Bama defense that is missing 4 out of its 7 linebackers and allowed a season-high 151 rush yards vs. LSU. Time of possession is normally a strength of Bama. But the predictable offensive play-calling and the thinned run defense made it difficult for them to keep their opponent off the field.

MSU State ranks 17th in average time of possession behind its power rush attack. Their top running back is Aeris Williams, a 220-pound downhill bruiser. He will help wear down Bama along with quarterback Nick Fitzgerald, who leads the team in rush yards by utilizing his ball skills to deceive the defender on option plays and his patience and vision to find the holes which he can accelerate through.

Fitzgerald has completed only 56% of his passing because of his unreliable decision-making and inconsistent accuracy. He is a conservative passer who averages 6.2 yards per pass. So he won't beat Bama deep, but can help grind out some first downs. Touchdowns will come difficult for him, as he completed less than half his throws against Georgia and Auburn and faces another top-ranked pass defense in Alabama.


The Verdict

The 'under' has hit in 5 consecutive Mississippi State home games against Bama.  Both teams possess the rush attack to move the chains against well-organized and hard-nosed defenses, but lack the aerial threat to move the ball in a hurry.  The slugfest style of play suits the Bulldogs, who are 6-0 ATS this season when allowing fewer than 200 pass yards, 0-3 ATS when they allow more. Expect a lot of hard running and physicality on our NCAAF Picks. 

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