Happy Friday, everyone. The Tide passed big test in Baton Rouge with flying colors and now move on to a home tilt against a ranked Mississippi State bunch that comes in feeling good about themselves. You can imagine Saban’s greatest concern.
“But the battle becomes internal at this time in the season. Are you going to be complacent about where you are? Are you going to continue to celebrate what you’ve accomplished in the past? Are you going to pat yourself on the back? Are you going to relax and get relief syndrome because of a job well done?
“It’s kind of like having a great meal and smoking a cigarette -- for all you people that smoke. I don’t really smoke. But you feel full and comfortable, and it all leads to a natural letdown.
Coach of course has a good point, but more than a couple people #online have noted his cigarette analogy. I’m pretty sure he’s equating the shutout of LSU with doing the sex. You still have to get up and go to work the next morning, you know?
Your previews and predictions:
Alabama is not going to dominate the line of scrimmage to the extent that it did at LSU. Mississippi State’s defensive line features two first-round NFL talents, and its offensive line is experienced and effective.
Nick Fitzgerald may be the worst passing quarterback starting in the SEC, and I don’t expect Mississippi State to score much. Anything more than 10 points for the Bulldogs would be a surprise. But I also think Mississippi State can hold Alabama to 35 or fewer points.
Alabama-Mississippi State under 53 is one of my favorite bets of the week.
Fitzgerald has also run for more than 100 yards in three of the last four games including a 195-yard night against Auburn.
”It’s very hard preparing for him,” Alabama defensive back Shyheim Carter said. “Mississippi State plays with all 11 people, and he’s included in that 11. It’s very hard trying to stop him from passing the ball and as a runner. It’s kind of complicated, but I’m sure we’ll get it done.”
After watching its opening possession touchdown streak halted last week at LSU, don’t be surprised if Alabama comes out firing early Saturday in its return home and attacks Mississippi State’s senior-laded secondary right from the start. On the flipside, Fitzgerald will have a difficult time trying to move the ball against Williams and company, and could show some of the same signs of frustration that has plagued him in the past against Alabama. So, while the Bulldogs defense will undoubtedly settle into form, it might not come until after the Tide post a multi-touchdown advantage in the first half before turning to the ground game to slow things down. Expect another somewhat lopsided Alabama win Saturday, the 11th straight in their long-running series. Alabama 35, MSU 14
The Crimson Tide are fresh off the shutout at LSU, and will come close to another goose egg against the Bulldogs. Quinnen Williams and the Tide front seven were nasty last week, and will be even better against the Bulldogs as they force quarterback Nick Fitzgerald into some very bad decisions. If the Tide offensive line can keep quarterback Tua Tagovailoa clean, this will be another runaway -- and likely a shutout. Pick: Alabama (-24)
Mississippi State has played nine games and has relented just nine touchdowns. In fact, the Bulldogs have surrendered just two touchdowns in their opponents’ last 51 possessions. That means the Bulldogs lead the nation in angry-ass stinginess. And their nasty demeanor will serve them well here as they saw some semblance of hope after LSU “held” the Tide to 29 points. The big question is whether the MSU offense can actually score 24 to 28 points or not. Nick Fitzgerald seemed like he was trying to do it all himself at LSU a couple of weeks ago, but the play-calling has been better the last two games.
But c’mon, this is still No. 1-ranked Alabama, only this time the Crimson Tide have added a little more meanness to their defense. Barring an early injury to Tua Tagovailoa (knock on wood Bama fans), the Tide have too many offensive weapons in the form of the best QB in the country, receivers Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs and running backs Najee Harris and Damien Harris. Advantage Tide.
Prediction: Alabama 31, Mississippi State 13
• Mississippi State (6-3, 2-3) at Alabama (9-0, 6-0), 2:30 p.m. CST on CBS. Alabama -24 1/2, o-u 51 1/2. There will be a lot of talk about how Alabama was “lucky” to pull out a win in Starkville last year and that the Bulldogs still have Nick Fitzgerald at quarterback and Montez Sweat and Jeff Simmons on the defensive line. This could also be considered a trap game, following the emotional Tide win at LSU last week and with the SEC Championship Game berth already assured. Finally, how much will Alabama want to risk Tua Tagovailoa in the game if a second half lead appears safe? Questions, questions, questions. Answer: Alabama 38, Mississippi State 10.
The timing is right for an Alabama clunker.
It’s beaten up a bit – from Tagovailoa’s knee, to Harris’s ankle, to dealing with a physical win over LSU – and it’s way overdue for a little bit of an exhale. There’s no down game in this program and under this coach, but … Alabama is in the SEC Championship now. Coming off the emotional road win, there can’t help but be a wee bit of a let down.
But the talent will come through, and the Tide will get the win and keep on rolling. However, it’s about to deal with a defense that can hold up, and Fitzgerald will be an issue.
Expect this to be a bit more of a fight than we’ve seen so far.
Fearless Prediction & Line
Alabama 30, Mississippi State 16
For many observers, the game in Baton Rouge was Alabama’s “test” or “its biggest hurdle” until the College Football Playoff. But if UA players take that attitude, then Mississippi State, or Auburn, or Georgia (in Atlanta) will be happy for the opportunity to bite Alabama on the backside.
Saban has done a remarkable job of keeping his teams from looking ahead during the historic 5-in-9 run, but when he starts saying “refocus,” there’s an obvious subtext. The Crimson Tide might have too much firepower to lose — but that doesn’t mean that they don’t have to aim.
Everyone seems to be expecting an ugly game on a what is going to be a chilly afternoon in Tuscaloosa. This will be Fitzgerald’s last crack at the Tide and he will undoubtedly want to show out. Of course, I’m sure he wanted to show out against the other good defenses he has faced, and at this stage of the season this Alabama unit seems to have rounded into form as the best in the conference.
Mississippi State slams Nick Fitzgerald into a brick wall often enough that he’s almost bound to find a crack at some point and escape for a big play or two. That’s about all I can see the Bulldogs getting, and as good as Jeffery Simmons and company are along the defensive front, this Alabama offensive line is just as stout. I agree with taking the under (53), but it’s because the Bulldogs will put up nothing. Call it Alabama, 38-6.
Of course, that is just my prediction. Give us your score in the comments.
For Saban, it always comes down to recruiting.
The 2016 signees, now juniors and redshirt sophomores, include offensive linemen Jonah Williamsand Deonte Brown, running back Josh Jacobs, Irv Smith Jr. and quarterback Jalen Hurts.
The 2017 class may be even more loaded: Tagovailoa, running back Najee Harris,offensive linemen Jedrick Wills and Alex Leatherwood, and receivers Jerry Jeudy, DeVonta Smith and Henry Ruggs III are all sophomores.
“It wasn’t like we went out and said, ‘OK, we want to recruit this kind of guy so that we can have this kind of team,’ ” Saban said. “I think we recruit the best players that we can and then you mold the team based on their skill-set.”
If you ever follow the NFL draft, you’ll find that the premier organizations don’t draft for need very often, instead evaluating the available players and taking as many of the best ones as they can find regardless of position. This is Saban’s philosophy as well: take the best players and then figure out how to scheme around them. This runs contrary to
Gus Malzahn certain coaches who have their system and try to force every player into it, and serves as yet another reason that Saban dominates college football.
Irv Smith has certainly enjoyed a breakout season in this year’s scheme.
The combination of route-running by Smith and the receivers and Tagovailoa’s accuracy with the football have made this year’s Alabama offense one of the best in the nation through 10 weeks.
“You run every route to win, and I feel like we do a great job of that. And Tua, he does an awesome job of finding the open receiver, and he trusts us to make a play,” Smith said. “Every ball we have an opportunity to catch, and he has a lot of trust in us. So, if he feels like he has a good matchup or if we’re open, he’s going to throw the ball. It’s awesome having that trust with him and being able to make plays off of him.”
Never underestimate the impact on the receivers of a quarterback who gets the ball out on time and accurately, to the right read. Guys run their routes just a little harder when they think they might actually get the ball.
This is an interesting nugget on Dan Enos:
The quarterbacks have so much respect for Enos that, according to sources, he factored into Jalen Hurts’ decision to play out this season with the Tide instead of redshirting. Word is Hurts wanted to continue to learn from Enos rather than going down to scout team and not receiving the same level of coaching, even though that meant sacrificing the year of eligibility.
Hurts’ quarterback rating in 2016 was 139.1. Last year, it was 150.7. This year, while playing some as Tagovailoa’s backup, it’s up to 190.5. People at Alabama feel Enos has helped Hurts take a significant step forward as a quarterback. They feel the other QBs have gotten better, too.
What an asset. I don’t know if Saban will be able to hold onto Enos or not. The problem with assembling an all-star staff is that other teams come to poach your guys. Both Enos and Josh Gattis are capable of coordinator roles at the very least, with Enos reportedly a candidate for the Kansas head coaching job. It’s a great problem to have, of course, but there aren’t many QB coaches in the country on Enos’ level.
That’s about it for today. Have a great weekend.