Happy Monday, everyone. Plenty was written about Alabama's win over LSU. Needless to say, folks were impressed by the defense's ability to completely shut down the Heisman front-runner. Of course, not everyone is happy about Alabama seizing control of the SEC race:
Alabama. Crushed LSU 30-16. Les Miles would challenge a rhino to a head-butting contest. If you want anyone to write anything new and exciting about Alabama, you are looking in the wrong place. The only hope for humanity and a world without a 27-3 Playoff final in which Alabama gets a 21-0 lead over, like, Baylor is that Mississippi State, Auburn or Florida plays the game of its life against the Crimson Tide and saves us all the miserable asphyxiation of Nick Saban football. None can do this.
We're all going to have to watch more Alabama football than we want to, though there is one positive side effect: watching Lane Kiffin actually use a running back.
Nah, Spence, some of us will never get enough Alabama football. Your disgust pleases us, though. Some additional takes on the game and what it means going forward:
It turns out committee members might have ranked the Crimson Tide a little low. We complained during the week that Alabama was ranked too high based on its résumé to that point. We’ll shut up now. On Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium, the Tide offered a resounding rebuttal to all those complaints. LSU came in undefeated and ranked No. 2 and left completely whipped. A wild Arkansas win at Ole Miss had opened the door for Alabama to retake control of its SEC destiny, and the Tide stormed through behind Derrick Henry, who completely outshined that other SEC West tailback in a 30–16 demolition of the Tigers that wasn’t as close as the score.
Now, Alabama is in the driver's seat of the SEC West thanks to Ole Miss' loss to Arkansas. If the Crimson Tide wins out, it'll yet again travel to Atlanta for the SEC Championship. Most importantly, Alabama is playing its best football of the season. "We found our groove and we are rolling now," said Cam Robinson. "I feel like now we are right where we expected to be. We have some steam headed down the stretch." That's worth celebrating.
LSU's 54 net rushing yards also helped Alabama's defensive marks. It's up to No. 2 against the run, allowing an average of 75.8 yards a game. A few more defensive numbers of note: -- Alabama's leading tackler, Geno Matias-Smith had six stops. A total of 20 players had at least one stop. -- Nine Alabama defenders got at least a half of a tackle for loss. The Tide finished with 7.0 total. -- Alabama had 39:27 time of possession to LSU's 20:33. It held it for no fewer than 8:39 in any quarter including 12:12 of the fourth.
Alabama shut down Leonard Fournette — after he managed 31 yards on 19 carries, the Heisman race is suddenly wide open — while Derrick Henry rolled up 210 yards and three touchdowns on 38 carries. If the formula was familiar, so were the results. "You heard about Fournette all week," Ragland said. "Derrick came out and made a statement. He took the ball 40-something times, right? He ran the ball. That's what grown men do. He's a grown man."
"Derrick did the same thing he’s been doing, for some reason he just doesn’t get as much credit as the other guy [Fournette]," Coker said. "The other guy’s really good, too, he’s a great player, but so is [Henry]. He deserves every bit of credit he’s going to get." So just to be clear, Jake, you believe Henry, not Fournette, is the best running back in the country? "Coming from me, yes," he said with a chuckle, before adding: "Damn right he is."
With Saturday’s win, Alabama pushed its Sept. 19 loss to Ole Miss to the distant past. The Rebels helped to make that possible, too, by falling to Arkansas 53–52 in overtime. That gave Ole Miss, which controlled its SEC destiny entering Week 10, its second defeat in conference play. Now if the Tide win out, they’ll win the SEC West and earn a trip to Atlanta to face Florida (which locked up the SEC East with an ugly 9–7 win Saturday) with a conference title and a playoff berth on the line. Since falling to the Rebels, Alabama has won six straight by a combined score of 189–77. It almost certainly won’t leapfrog No. 1 Clemson, but few teams could claim to be playing better right now.
Amazing how perspectives can change, isn't it? This team has veteran leaders on both sides of the football, Reggie Ragland and Jake Coker seemingly the most vocal while Derrick Henry provides the attitude, which breeds confidence in their ability to stay focused going forward. To be sure, their work is not done. Saturday's trip to Starkville will not be easy.
A couple of Mississippi State tidbits:
Also of note could be the impact of this game on the Heisman race. Derrick Henry may have surged to the top of the voter's ballots with his performance against LSU. If the Bulldogs slow him down, and Dak Prescott has a big game, the Mississippi State quarterback might find himself in the hunt for a trip to New York.
Says above that Alabama's defense was sick of hearing about Leonard Fournette's Heisman chances and the team likely drew some motivation from pushing their own candidate to the forefront in Derrick Henry. Here sits Mississippi State, reading about Alabama's virtual coronation as a national title favorite and Henry now squarely in the mix for the Heisman. By shutting down the Alabama running game and helping Prescott have a big game on offense, they could flip the script on the Tide. Vegas thinks this game will be closer than they thought the LSU game would be.
There was a feeling, at least nationally, that Mississippi State had stopped being a story after a Oct. 3 loss at Texas A&M that dropped the Bulldogs to 3-2. But Mississippi State ran through the next four games (average margin of victory: 24.25 points) and got itself in position to get another shot at Alabama, this time in Starkville. You can talk your way into how Mississippi State upsets Alabama: Dak Prescott is a much more refined quarterback than he was a year ago, when the Tide’s scheme bottled him up in the pocket and forced him into three interceptions. He’s much more apt in 2015 to hang out behind his offensive line and try to pick apart Alabama’s secondary (which is first in the SEC giving up 5.6 yards per attempt).
These guys have been playing well of late, and they will have a stadium full of cowbell-wielding critters conspiring to give everyone within a mile radius a collective migraine.
Keith Joseph Jr., a current Mississippi State player, and Keith Joseph Sr. were driving in a pickup Friday afternoon, bound for their former high school to see the team play. The 18-year-old Joseph Jr. was redshirting this season as a freshman defensive lineman. His 44-year-old father was a linebacker for Mississippi State from 1989 to 1992 and is 10th in school history in sacks.
If you hadn't heard, a freshman legacy player from Mississippi St. was killed in an auto accident along with his father on Friday. Our condolences go out to the entire Bulldogs family.
That's about it for today, folks. Have a great week. Roll Tide.