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Jumbo Package: Bulldogs give desperate fanbases hope vs. the Bama machine

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Your latest Crimson Tide news and notes.

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

Happy Monday, everyone. As usual, the season has flown by, and we’re left with the sobering reality that only three weeks remain before the long bowl layoff that we hope will be in preparation for the Tide’s fifth playoff berth in five chances. We’ll lead off with Mississippi State whining about officiating.

“I’ve personally communicated with the coordinator of football officials, Steve Shaw, and SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey,” Cohen said. “Both of them assured me that Saturday’s game with Alabama is being fully reviewed, and they also stated that the official issues will be identified swiftly and dealt with directly.”

Look, the block in the back was a bad call but it’s also very understandable from where the official was standing. I don’t know if Shyheim Carter just made a weird dive or if the turf monster got him, but he kind of stumbled at the exact moment that the Mississippi State player directly behind him, and screened from the official’s view, threw his hands up like a guilty person. Cry me a river and worry about the fact that your own head is on the chopping block since your offensive guru head coach hire can’t move the ball, hayseed.

Recaps:

Mississippi State also turned up the heat on Tua Tagovailoa. Alabama had success running the ball early and when the Bulldogs clogged those holes, they came after the quarterback.

“Just throwing some new things at us, a whole lot of strong (side) blitzes,” said Alabama right tackle Jedrick Wills, “things like that, run stop, pass stop.”

Nick Saban said the mistakes had a cumulative effect. Too many negative plays led to the kind of down-and-distance scenario that limits options. It also makes the offense more predictable.

Tagovailoa was sacked four times after Alabama had allowed just six sacks all season. He finished 14-for-21 for 164 yards with a touchdown and interception.

-- It wasn’t a pleasant afternoon for Mississippi State’s Nick Fitzgerald, either. Quinnen Williams continued to bully interior offensive linemen to clog the middle. Isaiah Buggs also had a few big plays including the first-possession tackle for loss that forced the first Bulldog punt.

-- Mississippi State, and the last few Alabama opponents it seems, have kept Jaylen Waddle from making an impact in punt returns. High boots made it almost impossible to even attempt one. There was one where he looked disappointed in himself for waiving off for a fair catch.

-- The injury easily overshadowed by concern for Tagovailoa’s knee is in left guard Deonte Brown. The uptick in Alabama’s running performances have coincided with him winning the starting job. It sagged when he left the game with a turf toe that could be an issue moving forward.

There seem to be a number of factors affecting the offense at the moment. First, give the opponents some credit. LSU and Mississippi State are strong defensive teams, far better on that side of the ball than any of Alabama’s earlier foes. Second, starting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa looks to be hurting from a year’s worth of accumulated hits. That’s obvious regardless of any amateur diagnosis of his knee.

Whatever the precise balance of those two factors might be, the effect is obvious. Tagovailoa’s longest completion against Mississippi State went for 25 yards. In September and October, he was hitting 25-yarders in his sleep and was mixing in some 65-plus in there like it was the 4 p.m. dinner special at Golden Corral.

Tua Tagovailoa’s knee issue will be well-discussed throughout the rest of the season. The Heisman Trophy favorite has come up limping after hits in games over the last month. This storyline will surely grow in stature in November and December.

The defense earned a shut out for the second consecutive week and allowed 169 total yards. The Crimson Tide will be fine.

But America deserves a full year of Tua Tagovailoa.

“We didn’t have much rhythm today on offense,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said after the game on the CBS telecast. “They got a lot of pressure on the quarterback. Tua (Tagovailoa) got beat up a little bit. We had some adversity, and it’s the first time we’ve had any adversity on offense all year long. You got to learn how to respond, and this will be a good … lesson for us.”

Alabama’s defense pitched back to back shutouts against ranked teams, albeit those with limited offenses. A lot of folks seem to be trashing the offensive line after Mississippi State managed four sacks, but on the rewatch a lot of that actually fell on Tua and the running backs. State got home with a slot blitz a couple times, which has nothing to do with the big uglies. One of the sacks came on a max protect play action, five seconds after the snap with safeties deep and Damien Harris wide open on the checkdown. Tua is obviously super confident, but as much as we love the highlight plays where he spins out of trouble, he spins into trouble just as often. His future NFL coach will have a coronary if he pulls some of that at the next level. The next step in his maturation is taking the four yard pass when that’s what they give you.

Bottom line, Mississippi State had a great quarter on defense. Alabama completely shredded them in the first quarter and still moved the ball in the second. There was no effort to attack the defense after Mac Jones entered the game. Oh, and if any of you feel the urge to mutter a sentence starting with the words, “If Mississippi State did this then we’re in trouble against....” please slap yourself silly. You clearly haven’t been paying attention for the past ten years. Every game plan is different, and this team is better equipped to handle anything that an opponent will throw at it than anyone else.

I’m not a believer in #BamaFatigue when it comes to the CFP committee since they have consistently selected the four best teams, but it’s certainly a thing among other fanbases.

Alabama’s defense was nasty again. Yes, Mississippi State should have scored one touchdown—that block-in-the-back call was bogus—but the Bulldogs weren’t going to get anything else. Even though Mississippi State’s defense made Tua Tagovailoa look something close to normal (14 of 21, 164 yards, one touchdown, one interception), the Bulldogs would get the ball back and Alabama’s entire defensive line would jump on Mississippi State quarterback Nick Fitzgerald. Still, it’s worth repeating that a defense made Tagovailoa look normal. Maybe Georgia can do that. Maybe Michigan can do that. Maybe Clemson can do that. But can they score enough to hang with the Crimson Tide?

Because make no mistake, there is dread if not outright resignation about what lies ahead for college football over the next eight weeks. As tired as the country may be of Alabama, never has a championship team felt as inevitable as this one. Even the manufactured drama feels cheaply made.

And so the rest of college football is down to one more chance to squeeze Alabama out of the College Football Playoff, and it will come on Dec. 1 when Georgia gets its shot in the SEC championship game.

They all want someone, anyone, to keep Bama out of the playoff. They are sick of us. Sorry, not sorry.

In that vein, Alabama continues to break its own poll records.

Over the past 10 years, there have been 165 rankings and the Crimson Tide has been No. 1 in 84 of them – 50.9 percent of all polls in that period.

Bama has been No. 1 in 42 of the last 45 polls. Prior to this run, the most appearances at No. 1 in a 50-poll period was Southern Cal with 33 from 2003-05. The Tide has broken that record with five more weeks and the possibility of adding to it.

So, we’ve been #1 for 93% of the time over the last 45 weeks. Is that good?

Last, SEC Shorts has teams brushing up their Bowl resumes. Enjoy.

Stephen Garcia ain’t no hero around here, that’s for sure.

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

Roll Tide.