THE CALL

By Tommy Deas

OFFENSE
Advantage: Alabama
This Crimson Tide offense is explosive, with playmakers like Jerry Jeudy, and getting better in the run game as the offensive line play evolves. Mississippi State’s Nick Fitzgerald presents a unique threat at quarterback, but MSU can’t match UA’s firepower.

DEFENSE
Advantage: Even
Mississippi State’s defensive front has been solid all season, and Alabama is getting big-time production from Quinnen Williams and others. MSU allows 12.3 points to Alabama’s 14.1 on average, and 279 yards to UA’s 295. The differences are negligible, as both units are outstanding.

SPECIAL TEAMS
Advantage: Mississippi State
Alabama has explosive returners in Josh Jacobs and Jaylen Waddle, but has been shaky at punter and abysmal in placekicking, where even extra points are an adventure. The Bulldogs are average in the punting department but far better at kicking the ball.

COACHING
Advantage: Alabama
MSU made a sneaky good hire in Joe Moorhead, who had big-time coordinator experience at Penn State and head coaching success at Fordham. Nick Saban’s legacy is at Alabama writ in crimson flame, with a statue and national title trophies accumulated.

INTANGIBLES
Advantage: Mississippi State
The Crimson Tide is coming off an emotional, and physical, road victory at LSU. Alabama may be a bit beat up and could still have a big of a hangover. Mississippi State is good enough to present a challenge and may not have UA’s complete attention.

PREDICTION
Alabama 39, Mississippi 16
Alabama may not be at its sharpest coming off the big victory at LSU, but still has too much firepower to allow the upset. Expect the Crimson Tide to have a few problems with Mississippi State’s quarterback-running offense, but to be in firm control by the end of the third quarter.

STAFF PICKS

Joey Chandler
Alabama 38, Mississippi State 7
Another Saturday, another big win for Alabama. The Bulldogs defense will be yet another test the Crimson Tide wastes no time in acing.

Cecil Hurt
Alabama 34, Mississippi State 13
Trap. Trap trap trap. That should be ample warning. Now you can’t catch a bear in a mousetrap. I would think the bear finds it really annoying though. That will probably sum up Alabama’s afternoon.

Ben Jones
Alabama 44, Mississippi State 14
The Bulldog defense is a bit under the radar this season and won’t be a pushover for Alabama. But the Crimson Tide offense is clicking in all phases, and holding them to 40 points in Tuscaloosa would be a respectable number.

Sa’Riah Ponder
Alabama 34, Mississippi State 7
The Bulldogs will not stop the Crimson Tide but they may cast a few challenges.

Michael Southern
Alabama 41, Mississippi State 7
The Crimson Tide won’t have a hangover against Mississippi State. Expect the offense to have more success against the Bulldogs than LSU and the defense to continue its maturity.

Ben Stansell
Alabama 35, Mississippi State 7
An intimidating defensive front led by Jeffery Simmons and Montez Sweat will challenge Alabama’s offense, but at the end of the day, Nick Fitzgerald and State won’t be able to score enough to keep this one close.

Edwin Stanton
Alabama 42, Mississippi State 10
Nick Fitzgerald presents a challenge for the Crimson Tide defense. The big Bulldog QB leads the team in rushing and is an efficient passer. Alabama held him in check last year in a close game. Look for more of the same tonight, except it won’t be close.

Terrin Waack
Alabama 38, Mississippi State 10
Alabama’s offensive line is going to have to hold its own and play the best it has all season. But I still don’t see this being a close game. The Crimson Tide has too many weapons on offense. Its defense proved itself last week, too.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

By Ben Stansell

ALABAMA

Ross Pierschbacher, R-Sr./C, 6-4/309
Key Stat: Has played in 52 games at center and guard combined
Buzz: Pierschbacher has been an anchor on Alabama’s offensive line this season after transitioning from guard to center in the spring. He’s helped lead a front that is ranked third nationally in allowing only .63 sacks per game. Pierschbacher and the Crimson Tide’s offensive line passed the test against LSU, but now a fearsome Mississippi State front looms ahead.

Deionte Thompson, R-Jr./DB, 6-2/196
Key Stat: Leads Alabama in total tackles with 51
Buzz: As one of the few players in Alabama’s secondary with experience, Thompson was the de facto leader heading into the season. He’s lived up to those expectations with both his guidance and play. Thompson has the range to cover the whole field, but can also come down and make tackles, which will be a critical factor in Alabama’s success stopping Mississippi State’s offense.

Damien Harris, Sr./RB, 5-11/215
Key Stat: Has amassed 2,739 yards in his career
Buzz: Harris made the decision to return for his senior season and has boosted himself into ninth on Alabama’s all-time leading rushers list. Like last year, the Crimson Tide’s backfield has functioned by committee. But Harris has been effective when he’s gotten the ball, averaging 6.2 yards per carry and totaling six touchdowns.

Mississippi State

Montez Sweat, Sr./DE, 6-6/245
Key Stat: Has a team-high seven sacks this season
Buzz: The duo of Sweat and Jeffrey Simmons help compose one of the most fearsome defensive lines in the country. While Simmons helps provide pressure from the interior, Sweat uses his quickness to torment opposing quarterbacks off the edge. Sweat has made 33 tackles and forced a fumble to go along with his seven sacks.

Elgton Jenkins, Sr./Center, 6-4/310
Key Stat: Has 30 career starts at center
Buzz: Considered by many to be one of the best centers in the SEC, Jenkins has been a consistent presence on Mississippi State’s offensive line. Jenkins has committed just one penalty in 538 snaps and boasts the second-highest Pro Football Focus grade (76.4) among centers in college football who have at least 500 snaps.

Nick Fitzgerald, Sr./QB, 6-5/230
Key Stat: Fourth in the SEC in rushing with 839 yards
Buzz: Fitzgerald’s final tour of duty with Mississippi State has been full of ups and downs. After starting off the season well, Fitzgerald went through a stretch of four games in which he didn’t throw a touchdown. But the veteran quarterback has turned it around in his last two outings, throwing six touchdowns and running for two while throwing no interceptions.

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