Keep Mississippi State in your prayers today, they are certainly going to need it. This afternoon at 6:45 CT the Bulldogs will trot out onto the field against an immensely talented Alabama team, who is aiming to re-write the history books with a third consecutive BCS Championship. After a sluggish start, by Alabama standards, the Tide have dominated opponents, nearly all of which were much more of a threat than a struggling, 4-5 Mississippi State team.
Be looking for Amari Cooper to have another big game against the Bulldogs. Cooper played the first half of the season hampered by a toe injury, and it showed. However, since his return against Kentucky after sitting out against Georgia State, he has started to remind folks why he was Alabama's leading receiver a year ago. If for some reason Cooper isn't open, don't worry, there are a slew of other talented receivers on the field, one of which is bound to be open. Kevin Norwood is quickly making a name for himself alongside Cooper as being a go to receiver. Whenever the offense is struggling or just need a big play, Norwood is the guy that can make that happen. These two, along with the rest of the Tide receiving corps, will be a match-up nightmare for Mississippi state.
Sophomore running backs TJ Yeldon and Kenyan Drake will be asked to carry the load on the ground, and they will do just that. The two backs are a deadly duo, combining for 1,418 yds and 19 touchdowns this season. TJ Yeldon is the bigger and more physical of the two. It will take more than an arm tackle to get him to the ground, but still has the ability to elude tacklers and the break away speed to leave defenders in the dust, if need be. Just when the defense gets used to Yeldon's style of running, in comes Kenyan Drake. Drake, Yeldon's backup, is more of a speed back. Once he has the ball in hand, he doesn't waste any time getting down field. Getting a clean tackle on the shifty back is a daunting task, but what may be even more impressive than his elusiveness is his acceleration. Drake is like a Ferrari in the backfield, he can go zero to touchdown seemingly before the defense knows he has the ball. If Mississippi State wants to have even moderate success, they are going to have to find a way to slow down the Alabama ground game.
AJ McCarron is in his third season as the Crimson Tide quarterback. With McCarron leading the charge, Alabama has won the past two national championships. He has two losses as a starter, and just recently took the top spot as the all-time leader in career passing yards for the University of Alabama with 7,997 yds and counting. McCarron is one of the, if not the best decision maker in college football, throwing only three interceptions thus far in the 2013 season. If the Bulldog's want to stop the run game, they'll have to load the box with defenders. Unfortunately for the Mississippi State defense, along with his decision making and pin-point accuracy, McCarron has the play-action pass down to an art form. After a few successful runs, he simply fakes the hand-off, waits for the defense to bite, and hits the wide open receiver for six. Mississippi State's defensive line will have to play out of their minds to get through the Tide's O-line, who seems to be improving weekly, and put pressure on McCarron.
Mississippi State ranks 5th in the SEC in rushing defense (141.7 Yds/G) and 9th in passing defense (231.2 Yds/G). While their defense isn't atrocious, it is a far cry from from being able to slow down a potent offense like one they will face in the Crimson Tide. With Alabama's diversity of play-makers, it should be able to cross the goal-line however they choose. They may not put up the gaudy offensive statistics of the Baylors and Oregons of college football, but they don't need to, thanks to a talented stable of future NFL running backs, a Heisman candidate at quarterback, and a big, physical offensive line that eats more clock that it does wings at Baumhower's after practice(that may be an exaggeration). It also doesn't hurt to have a smothering defense that can get the ball back before you bat an eye. Bama will take to the air early, as soon as the game is out of reach (usually midway through the second quarter), they'll return to the same old put your hand in the dirt and run the ball down your opponent's throat style of offense that the Bama faithful love to see.
If your Will Ferrell of Christopher Walken, you may be thinking, "They need more cowbell!" However, Dan Mullen and his bulldogs are going to need a lot more than cowbells, determination, or whatever they could possibly scheme up to take down college footballs number one team, they'll need a miracle.