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Jumbo Package: Nick Saban addresses team psyche ahead of Mississippi State

Your latest Crimson Tide news and notes.

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NCAA Football: Texas A&M at Alabama Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

Happy Friday, everyone. Alabama has had almost a week to digest its loss to Tennessee, and tomorrow will host Mississippi State. Your previews:

Mississippi State has been too erratic away from home to trust on the road against an angry Alabama team. Though 5-2, the Bulldogs’ two losses are both on the road by double-digits against SEC foes. Even if the Bulldogs find some of the apparent holes in Alabama’s secondary, they won’t be able to keep up with Crimson Tide quarterback Bryce Young, who played incredibly in his return from a shoulder injury last week. Nick Saban has outscored Mike Leach 79-7 in their two meetings as division foes, and he clearly has a read on how to handle Leach’s attack. Prediction: Alabama (-21)

Rogers is a very efficient passer, but does most of his damage in the medium portion of the field, into the heart of this Crimson Tide defense, which should open up some room for the secondary to get more aggressive in the deeper part of the field.

Moreover, the Bulldogs perform poorly where running the ball is concerned, 123rd nationally at just 93 yards per game and 79th in rushing defense.

Bryce Young should have room to work against a lukewarm Bulldog pass rush while the Tide’s powerful ground attack goes to work carving out consistent gainers .

College Football HQ Prediction: Alabama 37, Mississippi State 23

The Crimson Tide have won the last two meetings with Mississippi State by a combined score of 90-9. That included a 49-9 blowout in 2021 that came the week after Alabama lost to Texas A&M in 2021. The Bulldogs have been inconsistent from week to week, but it’s still a ranked team with a passing attack led by Will Rogers, who has 23 TD passes. The Crimson Tide shakes off the Tennessee hangover and pulls away in the second half, but that’s a lot of points. This one could be right on the line, but we’ll side with the home team.

Pick: Alabama wins 45-21 and COVERS the spread

No team in the country relies more on its passing game than the Bulldogs. Mike Leach’s Air Raid offense throws the ball 67.4% of the time, the highest mark in the country. Mississippi State will need to have similar success against Tennessee if it’s going to pull off the upset.


The Crimson Tide enter this game with something to prove, which doesn’t bode well for the Bulldogs.

Kentucky’s Will Levis was able to hit just about everything in last week’s win over the Bulldogs, and the Wildcat ground game was able to rumble without a problem. Arkansas didn’t have KJ Jefferson and it was able to run, too, in the 40-17 loss. LSU was able to run for over 200 yards in its win over Mike Leach’s team.

Bryce Young will be Bryce Young against a Bulldog D that doesn’t generate a ton of pressure, the running game will take control, and the secondary will hold up well enough.

It won’t be a total wipeout, and it won’t be a razor sharp performance, but there won’t be too much of a hangover after the Tennessee loss.

Alabama 37, Mississippi State 20

Alabama 45, Mississippi State 20: The Bulldogs should have more offensive success against this defense than years past. However, between Gibbs and Young, MSU’s defense doesn’t have a lot to look forward to. College football fans will be reminded why Saban’s teams respond so well after losses, and MSU will be on the wrong side once again. Mississippi State will be tied with Arkansas for the longest active losing streak in the SEC against Alabama come Saturday night.

That last one is from the Clarion-Ledger.

We will find out plenty about this Alabama team tomorrow. A team that has what it takes to make a run will be on its best game following a loss, particularly at home against an opponent they should handle. If they look more “emotionally hung over” than “fired up,” that won’t portend well for the rest of the season. As far as the matchup goes, Mississippi State doesn’t really stretch the field and their offensive output has been sporadic. Alabama’s defense has heard how awful it is for a week. Will they come out and put the hammer down on the Bulldogs?

Call me hopeful, but I think they will. This is a team that they can handle on both sides of the ball, and I believe they will put it all together. Give me Alabama, 48-16.

Of course, that is merely my opinion. Vote and give us yours in the comments.


What will be the result of Mississippi State at Alabama?

This poll is closed

  • 57%
    Leach walks the plank, Tide by 22+
    (464 votes)
  • 29%
    Lackadaisical Tide coast by 11-20
    (238 votes)
  • 8%
    Will Rogers makes a game of it, Tide by 1-10
    (67 votes)
  • 4%
    Bulldogs spring the upset (FLAGGED!)
    (33 votes)
802 votes total Vote Now

As usual we have some of the commentary from “Hey Coach.” Those of you who can’t read about the player anxiety issue without blowing a lid probably shouldn’t read this next part.

“I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about this,” Saban began.

He said he had a hard time understanding why a full week of preparation and focus seemed to melt away upon arrival at Neyland Stadium.

“We get there and we’re full of anxiety and I think some of that comes from external factors because, it’s like you say, people are on the internet and they get affected by what people think and say,” Saban said. “That’s how they get their feedback.”

He continued by saying he loves the players who are motivated internally and don’t lean on outside voices for affirmation.

“But I’m sorry to say not everybody is that way,” Saban said, “and I think some of this feedback that we’re talking about creates a little bit of a negative attitude, which creates a little bit of anxiety. Anxiety is not good for positive performance. It’s just not.”

Basically, the hype, atmosphere and expectations got to them a little bit.

For those who think this is a brand new phenomenon, Saturday’s game wasn’t unlike LSU in 2019. Remember Tua dropping the ball inside the 10 for no reason, then the punter dropping the ball for no reason, then Diggs just collapsing at the feet of Ja’Marr Chase near the goal line, then Tua throwing a terrible pick just before the half in that one? They rebounded to win the second half by 15 and came up just short.

For all of the handwringing over Saturday’s loss, few seem to mention the fact that the team dug itself out of a hole, just as they did the 20 point halftime deficit that year in Baton Rouge. There were mistakes along the way, but in Knoxville they got down 28-10 in the first 18 minutes of the game, which means that they won the last 42 minutes by a score of 39-24. Of course, had Reichard’s kick hooked inside the upright as he expected, that figure would be 42-21. We won’t even talk about McKinstry’s nullified interception with Alabama up by 7, and the ramifications of that. The defense allowed 213 yards on 9.3 per play in those first 18 minutes which of course included the punt mistake, and 354 yards on 7.4 yards per play the rest of the way. That’s still not good, mind you, but it’s certainly better.

What might have contributed to Alabama’s comeback? Could it have been that the pressure of ending the streak started to get to Tennessee, causing them to make an unforced error by fumbling a ball near their own end zone to give Alabama the lead? And remember, for them to tie the game it took a couple of very questionable pass interference flags, one on 3rd and long and the other on 4th and long, the latter of which took the interception and long return away. The Vol offense found big plays in the second half that ended up being enough to stave off the rally, but it wasn’t humming like it was early.

All of that is to say that the initial anxiety Saban speaks about here likely did contribute heavily to that loss. For anyone to watch the game and come away believing that they couldn’t or likely wouldn’t beat that team in a rematch on a neutral field seems a bit silly. As usual, he has his finger on the pulse of his team. Hopefully they learn from the experience and play their best ball going forward.

Nick also spoke a little about how the game has changed.

The NCAA has decided to make the week after Thanksgiving a dead period in recruiting for coaches to spend talking their own players out of bolting.

The NCAA said the proposed November dead period would give coaching staffs the chance to make in-person conversations a priority after the season ends and before the transfer portal window opens in December.

Earlier this year, the NCAA proposed — and approved — windows for the transfer portal to try and mitigate the number of potential infractions that could come with portal entries. However, the one-time transfer rule is still in place, despite reports saying the NCAA might consider allowing unlimited transfers.

Hopefully they keep it at one time.


Last, some jokes just write themselves.

The date on that Tweet is October 20. There are six weeks left in the college football regular season.

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

Roll Tide.