Alabama football vs. Mississippi State Bulldogs: Scouting report, score prediction
Before the season started, if you told someone the same team Mississippi State beat would follow up the next week by beating the top-ranked team in the country, a puzzled look would have been a reasonable response.
But that’s exactly what has happened the past two weeks. After falling short against the Bulldogs the week prior, Texas A&M beat then-No. 1 Alabama.
And now No. 5 Alabama (5-1, 2-1 SEC) will face Mississippi State (3-2, 1-1) at 6 p.m. Saturday in Starkville on ESPN.
Here’s what you need to know about Mississippi State, fresh off a week off:
ALABAMA FOOTBALL MAILBAG:Pete Golding, lack of pass rush and running in red zone
Mississippi State's Will Rogers is SEC passing leader
Only one quarterback in the SEC has more passing yards than Alabama's Bryce Young, and that’s Mississippi State’s Will Rogers.
Even with one fewer game, Rogers leads the SEC with 1,862 yards. His completion percentage is also best in the SEC at 75.7%.
“Will Rogers has played really, really well for them,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “He’s very accurate with the ball, he understands the offense, he’s been very, very consistent in the way he’s played throughout the season.”
With Rogers running the offense, the Bulldogs and Mike Leach’s air-raid style tally plenty of passing yards. Mississippi State ranks No. 5 in the country in passing yards per game with 372.4.
“They throw the ball 56, 57 times a game, so this is going to be a real challenge for our defense,” Saban said.
These aren’t necessarily big plays all the time. Saban said they must be ready to defend short passes, particularly for defensive linemen to make tackles on the perimeter.
“Sometimes when they throw it, it’s nothing more than a quick pitch and everybody needs to be rallying and leveraging the ball,” Saban said.
Don’t expect Mississippi State to run much, but run defense is stout
The Bulldogs won’t likely be taking Florida’s approach to facing the Crimson Tide.
Mississippi State’s offense isn’t built around the run. The Bulldogs rank last in the SEC with 56.2 rushing yards per game. They’ve only attempted to run the ball 93 teams, also by far the fewest in the SEC. LSU is next closest with 172.
Mississippi State doesn’t run much and it doesn’t give up much on the ground either.
The Bulldogs rank No. 9 in the country in rushing yards given up per game with 89.
“Their players are really playing well together,” Saban said. “They play a little different kind of front, 3-3 stack type things, which creates some preparation things that we need to do a good job on.”
Players to watch
Left tackle Charles Cross has NFL high-round draft pick potential as one of the best tackles in the SEC outside Evan Neal. If or when he gets a chance to match up with Alabama’s Will Anderson, those should be fascinating to watch.
Makai Polk is tied for third in the SEC with four receiving touchdowns. Jaden Walley also has four touchdowns, but Polk has 430 receiving yards compared to Walley’s 202.
Mississippi State has two talented corners in Martin Emerson and Emmanuel Forbes.
Score prediction: Alabama 38, Mississippi State: 21
The Bulldogs get a tough break in facing Alabama after a loss. The Crimson Tide might have fallen into the Texas A&M trap, but it doesn’t happen again this week.