THE CALL

By Edwin Stanton

OFFENSE
Advantage: Alabama
There is a chance Tua Tagovailoa won’t play or will see limited time while still recovering from surgery. The offense is in good hands with backup QB Mac Jones.

DEFENSE
Advantage: Alabama
Alabama didn’t look great last week, but that had to do with how good LSU is more than anything else. The Bulldogs are 60th in the nation in total defense, allowing close to 400 yards per game.

SPECIAL TEAMS
Advantage: Even
Thanks to last week’s 77-yard touchdown by Jaylen Waddle, Alabama is No. 1 in the nation in punt returns (24.8 yards per return). Mississippi State has a slight edge on field goals.

COACHING
Advantage: Alabama
Joe Moorhead is an offensive-minded guy in his second year at Mississippi State and will have some success down the road. Alabama’s Nick Saban is a great motivator, especially after a loss.

INTANGIBLES
Advantage: Alabama
There is still a shot for Alabama to earn a spot in the College Football Playoff. Some things have to fall their way, but the Crimson Tide just has to refocus and win out and that starts with the Bulldogs today.

PREDICTION
Alabama 41,
Mississippi State 21
The last time Alabama was in Starkville, the Crimson Tide needed a late touchdown to escape with a win. It’s going to be a tough atmosphere, but it won’t be anything like 2017. Even if it starts the backup QB, this one should go Alabama’s way.

STAFF PICKS

Tommy DiCostanzo
Alabama 52,
Miss. State 10
After the loss to LSU and a drop to the fifth spot in the College Football Playoffs (one spot below Georgia), the Tide should be highly motivated and ready to make a statement. A Bulldog pass defense that’s allowed a completion percentage over 70 percent for three straight weeks is in trouble today.

Brett Hudson
Alabama 42,
Mississippi State 20
It’s not a popular opinion in Starkville at the moment, but I do believe Joe Moorhead to be an offensive genius, and one who will be able to find some of the same holes LSU found — especially with a runner as good as Kylin Hill is. Still, as has happened to everyone but LSU, there will come a time where the opposing offense can’t keep up with Alabama’s and that will be that.

Cecil Hurt
Alabama 34,
Mississippi State 16
Is this Mississippi State’s opportunity to ring the golden cowbell? With Tua Tagovailoa a “maybe” and Alabama feeling the ill effects on a loss to LSU, could this be the chance MSU has been waiting for? Not this time.

Tyler Martin
Alabama 45,
Mississippi State 14
Coming off of an emotional and physical game against LSU, the Crimson Tide will bounce back in a big way against the Bulldogs on Saturday. Nothing strikes more fear into opponents than an angry Nick Saban-coached team with something to prove and a chip on their shoulder.

James Ogletree
Alabama 45,
Mississippi 20
I expect Tua Tagovailoa to be at full health and Mississippi State’s defense is far from what it once was. Kylin Hill, the leading rusher in the SEC, will be able to bust some big plays against the Crimson Tide’s defense

Carey Reeder
Alabama 42,
Mississippi State 24
I wouldn’t count on quarterback Tua Tagovailoa to play but if he does, I expect him to be on a snap count. Kylin Hill will have a big day for the Bulldogs and keep it respectable.

Michael Southern
Alabama 31,
Mississippi State 17
This has the usual markings of a “letdown game” following Alabama’s frustrating loss to LSU last week. Both the offense and defense have room for improvement, so how the Crimson Tide responds will be crucial to how it finishes the season.

Katie Windham
Alabama 42,
Mississippi State 17
In the past, this has occasionally been a trap or letdown game for Alabama coming off the annual battle against LSU. However, the Crimson Tide can’t afford a letdown this week, and I don’t think this Mississippi State team is as talented as previous teams that have challenged Alabama.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

By Carey Reeder

ALABAMA
Jordan Battle
Position: Defensive back
Height: 6-1
Weight: 201
Class: Freshman
Key Stat: Season-high six tackles against LSU last Saturday
Buzz: Battle started at safety against LSU and will more than likely see more time on the field after Trevon Diggs’ injury in the same game. Diggs was a no-go in Tuesday’s practice and had a brace on his left leg and did not participate in any drills. Battle will be asked to step up in a big way replacing the senior Diggs in the secondary this week and possibly further into the future if the injury is significant.

Markail Benton
Position: Linebacker
Height: 6-2
Weight: 235
Class: Sophomore
Key Stat: Recorded eight tackles last week against LSU, his season high
Buzz: Benton is as close to a 100 percent healthy he’s been in a long time and it showed last Saturday against LSU recording his career high in tackles in a single game. Benton will continue to get more looks at inside linebacker to lessen the burden on freshmen Christian Harris and Shane Lee. Benton hopes to continue his strong play in Starkville on Saturday.

Tua Tagovailoa
Position: Quarterback
Height: 6-1
Weight: 218
Class: Junior
Key Stat: 418 yards, four touchdowns, one interception and one long, limp-filled walk off
the field against LSU
Buzz: Tagovailoa could be a player to watch every week and even if he doesn’t play this week, his body language and demeanor on sidelines will be examined closely by everyone close to the situation. Alabama coach Nick Saban is in a very precarious positon when it comes to the status of his Heisman hopeful quarterback. “Day-to-day” is the answer Saban gave regarding his status.

MISSISSIPPI STATE
Kylin Hill

Position: Running back
Height: 5-11
Weight: 215
Class: Junior
Key Stat: Leading rusher in the SEC with 1,027 yards and 5.8 yards per carry
Buzz: Hill has been a workhorse for the Bulldogs’ offense who have embraced a run-first mentality. Alabama’s defense missed 25 tackles against LSU and there won’t be any relief on Saturday with Hill barreling downhill against the Crimson Tide. Hill’s nine touchdowns this year is more than his totals in 2017 and 18 combined (6).

Darryl Williams
Position: Center
Height: 6-3
Weight: 310
Class: Senior
Key Stat: Started all his sophomore and junior year at left guard; moved to center this season
Buzz: Williams is the second-highest rated center in the 2020 NFL Draft according to Draft Tek and was a preseason All-American selection this year. Williams was moved from left guard to center this to stabilize the offensive line for the Bulldogs. Williams will have to work hard to keep quarterbacks Garrett Shrader and Tommy Stevens upright.

Cameron Dantzler
Position: Defensive back
Height: 6-2
Weight: 185
Class: Junior
Key Stat: 28 tackles and two interceptions for the Bulldogs this season
Buzz: A 2018 second-team All-SEC selection and a 2019 preseason All-American selection, Dantzler has positioned himself in his last two seasons as one of the best cover corners in the country. The Hammond, LA., native is playing his best football of his career at the moment and his length on the perimeter will make it difficult for Alabama receivers to have their normal stellar days.