Coming off a home victory over LSU, top-ranked Alabama headed to Mississippi State and answered some key questions on Saturday. Here are four of them:
1. How will Alabama’s linebackers play?
Alabama looked vulnerable with Mack Wilson and Shaun Dion Hamilton out of the lineup due to injury. Mississippi State rushed for three touchdowns, which no team had done against Alabama in the Nick Saban era, and the Bulldogs rolled up 330 yards in total offense.
2. Can the Crimson Tide contain Nick Fitzgerald?
Mississippi State’s quarterback came in with a streak of four straight 100-yard rushing games, and was held to 66 yards on the ground on 21 carries with one rushing touchdown. He also passed for 158 yards. Those numbers didn’t quite reach his average, but he performed well against a stout Alabama defense.
3. What will the running game look like?
At times – especially when it mattered most – Alabama was able to control the line of scrimmage and gash Mississippi State with explosive runs. There were also points, however, when it seemed like the Crimson Tide couldn’t get the running game cranking. It was an uneven performance.
4. Which team wins time of possession?
Mississippi State came into the game ranked second in the SEC in time of possession, and completely controlled the ball and the clock. The Bulldogs held possession for 38:56, allowing Alabama to finish at a shade over 21 minutes. If not for a couple of late UA drives, it would have been worse.