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Jumbo Package: Big Raekwon is Quietly Eating Quarterbacks

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The 6’7” sophomore leads the Tide in sacks, and is currently on pace to match Jonathan Allen’s total from last season.

NCAA Football: Alabama at Tennessee John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Happy Friday, everyone. Tide basketball tips off the regular season tonight at 5:30 CT on CBS Sports Network (not actual CBS, this one is 221 on Directv). Of course, the Tide will be without Collin Sexton for this one. We will have your full preview later.

Oh, there is a football game on Saturday as well. The Tide will travel to Starkville for a game that is perhaps less certain that most seasons. Your previews:

Marq Burnett: Alabama 38, Mississippi State 10

Alabama is just a much better team than Mississippi State. As long as Alabama’s offense or special teams don’t turn the ball over, Alabama’s defense should be fine even with all of the injuries.

Look for the Crimson Tide to win convincingly.

Injuries to linebackers Shaun Dion Hamilton and Mack Wilson last week in the win over LSU should be a legitimate concern, after the bug bit the linebacker corps earlier in the season. It doesn't matter how talented a roster is -- and Alabama's is the most talented in the country -- at some point, it's going to be an issue. It will be -- to an extent -- against Mississippi State, when quarterback Nick Fitzgerald will have a little bit of success operating coach Dan Mullen's dynamic rushing attack. But Alabama has a counterpunch in the form of a terrifying rushing attack led by Damien Harris and Bo Scarbrough. That duo will act as "the closers" in this contest, and Alabama will pull away in the second half against a worn down Bulldogs defense en route to a late cover. Pick: Crimson Tide (-14)

Bet: Alabama -13.5, under 51

Score: Alabama 31, Mississippi State 13

Nick Fitzgerald, a good offensive line and a deep backfield will help Mississippi State occasionally succeed against a wounded Bama defense. But the Bulldogs won’t be able to convert third-and-long, leaving a minuscule margin for error on offense. Expect Alabama to dominate field position, intercept a few passes and squeeze the life out of the cowbell-toting crowd in the second half.

Damien Harris, who has been Alabama’s top rusher this year, carried the ball just 9 times. Bo Scarbrough had 11 carries while sophomore Josh Jacobs was given the ball just once.

Yes, LSU was loading the box, but it seems odd that Alabama didn’t try to feed its tailbacks a little more.

Either way, look at Mississippi State to get a heavy dose of Alabama’s run game on Saturday night. The best way to quiet cowbells is to take the air out of the game by pounding an opposing defense with the run.

The trenches are where this game will be decided. Can Mississippi State’s offensive line clear enough running lanes for Fitzgerald to attack the middle and perimeter? And when Alabama has the ball, can the Bulldogs slow down Harris, Scarbrough and Hurts on the ground? The guess here is Mississippi State will win a few battles on the ground – but it won’t be easy. Even if the Bulldogs make a couple of big plays on the ground, it’s not going to be enough. Look for Alabama to stack the box and contain Fitzgerald, while its offense puts together a couple of drives in the second half to put this one away.

Prediction: Alabama 31, Mississippi State 13

Some remarkable consistency from the prognosticators this week. Few are giving Mississippi State much of a chance to cover, even with the injuries to the Alabama defense. It probably didn’t help matters that the Bulldogs struggled with, and legitimately could have lost to, UMass last week.

Mississippi State has defended the pass better than the run this season, which should play into the hands of the Alabama attack. More concerning for the Bulldogs has to be the paltry 6.5 points they averaged against the two best defenses they have faced to date in Georgia and Auburn.

We will learn something about the Tide this week. The aforementioned Dawgs and Tigers were able to dispatch this group easily as both teams started fast and were never threatened. Should Alabama struggle to put them away, it may portend trouble down the road. I don’t expect that to happen. Look for Alabama to take this one fairly easily, 34-10.

As always, that is simply my score prediction. Vote and leave yours in the comments.

The No. 2 Crimson Tide registered a season-high six sacks against LSU and has been building toward that type of outing after a slow start to the season in the pass rush department.

A big reason for that, literally, has been the play of sophomore defensive end Raekwon Davis, who leads the team with 6.5 sacks through nine games. And in turn, Davis has helped the rest of his teammates see success on the defensive side of the football.

“Raekwon is a ferocious player, man,” senior linebacker Rashaan Evans said. “Just to have him on our team, on our defense, man, it helps my job. The fact that he’s able to get back there to quarterbacks and help me out when I’m in coverage is always a great thing for any linebacker to have.”

Raekwon is currently on pace for 10.8 sacks in a 15 game season. For some perspective, Jonathan Allen managed 12 and 10.5, respectively, in his last two campaigns. Davis is putting up remarkable numbers for a 3-4 end. May this continue and help out the depleted LB corps.

Minkah Sr. and Melissa, Minkah’s parents, were set up by an uncle on his father’s side. His mom, a natural athlete who never really participated in organized sports, and his dad, a football and basketball player, have been together ever since. They’ve seen their son play at a high level for a long time. So it can take a lot to impress them.

“They’re really hard on me, but only in sports,” Fitzpatrick said. “It was a kind of tough love when it comes to football. My mother always gives me a grade after every game. She’s given me an A like one or two times. We get grades here too, and I get an A like almost every other week. My mother’s like, ‘B- or a C+.’ I say, “Come on, mom.’ She knows how good I can be. She knows a lot about football too. She knows when I mess up and do little things that some people may not see. Hearing a compliment from my mother or father is a big deal.”

By all accounts, Minkah has looked no worse for wear at the last couple of practices. He seems to be ready to go. Unfortunately, the secondary doesn’t enjoy the embarrassment of riches that the linebacker unit does. Fitzpatrick is probably the one indispensable player on the defense.

But as it turns out that number is pretty static on offense when the Crimson Tide has to fight into the fourth quarter to settle the outcome. Starting with Alabama's loss in the national championship game to Clemson, Alabama has surrounded Jalen Hurts with either 17 or 18 teammates the last four times the Crimson Tide's starters have had to go the distance. That means the Tide relies on a rotation of approximately 12 skill-position players -- six receivers, two tight ends and three to four running backs -- in addition to an extra lineman or H-back.

"I don't know if there's a formula for it or if it's good or bad," Saban said. "I usually think the more players that you play, the more depth you have on your team, probably the better team that you're going to have."

Interesting note here about the number of skill players who rotate each game. There is a balance between managing game snaps to keep everyone fresh and getting enough practice reps for those who will play the most.

Sheridan, in an interview Thursday on The Opening Kickoff on WNSP-FM 105.5, said that point spread is down from a couple of weeks ago.

"They would be a seven-point favorite," the oddsmaker said. "A couple of weeks ago, I would've said 10. I'd say Alabama would be a six- or seven-point favorite.

"They'd have a tough time because they can't defend the pass."

I mean, that last quote seems a bit harsh since S&P+ has Alabama at #4 in the country against the pass, but the fact remains that the Tide will be a favorite against anyone they play this season.

That’s about it for today. Have a great weekend.

Roll Tide.

Poll

What will be Saturday's result?

This poll is closed

  • 76%
    Cousin Eddie’s house gets repossessed again, Tide roll by 14+
    (508 votes)
  • 20%
    Mullen gets his moral victory, Tide by 1-13
    (138 votes)
  • 2%
    Bulldogs pull the upset (FLAGGED!)
    (14 votes)
660 votes total Vote Now