The top team in the nation, the Mississippi State Bulldogs, will have a battle for the ages when they visit Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, to face the Crimson Tide on Saturday, November 15 (time TBD).
It’s hard to predict what will happen to the Bulldogs if they lose this game. Right now they are undefeated and in first place in the CFP rankings. A loss at Alabama would put Mississippi State among the numerous other one-loss teams looking for a playoff berth. But, unless they get run out of the building on November 15, they will have one of the best losses you can have: on the road at Alabama. And the Bulldogs already have a win over No. 3 Auburn on their resume, where they covered as 2.5 point dogs.
So it’s tough to say that a loss will cost the Bulldogs a chance at a playoff spot. But Dan Mullen certainly does not want to find out the repercussions. Moreover, Mississippi State still has to travel to No. 4 (at least for one more day) Ole Miss at the end of the month. While they may be able to afford one loss out of the Alabama and Ole Miss games, they certainly can’t afford two.
For the Crimson Tide, who already count themselves among the one-loss teams, a second defeat would seal their fate. A win over the top-ranked team in the nation, though, would go along way to convincing the CFP Selection Committee to put them at the head of the one-loss herd.
Looking at the numbers, the Mississippi State offense is 38th in passing in the country (267 yards per game), 16th in rushing (250 yards per game), and 13th in scoring (at 39.1 points per game). The defense is also holding up its end of the bargain, ranked 20th in the nation (20.1 points per game). The Bulldogs are led by Heisman trophy candidate Dak Prescott. The dual-threat QB has over 2,000 yards and 16 touchdowns through the air to go along with over 700 yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground (putting him in the top 50 in the country in both passing and rushing yards).
The Crimson Tide’s stats on offense are similar to Mississippi State’s. They have the 24th best passing offense (290 yards per game), 30th best rushing offense (218 yards per game), and 19th best scoring offense (36.5 points per game). The Tide should have the edge on the defensive side of the ball, though, as they boast the second best scoring defense in the nation, allowing just 14.0 points per game. The Tide already decimated the Heisman chances of another mid-season contender, Texas A&M’s Kenny Hill – Alabama held Hill to 138 passing yards with no touchdowns and one interception – and they will try to do the same to Prescott’s hopes. Though, unlike Hill, Prescott has wheels to go with his cannon of an arm.
As with every team in the SEC, Alabama has faced a tough schedule to-date, and has more hard games to come. Prior to the Mississippi State game, Alabama faces No. 19 LSU in Baton Rouge, where the Tigers just knocked off Ole Miss. After the Mississippi State game, the Crimson Tide get some respite as Western Carolina comes to town; but then it’s right back to SEC-battle as they host No. 3 Auburn. The good news for Alabama is that the LSU game ends a stretch of four road games in five weeks, and the Tide will be at home for their next three. If they can manage to win out, Alabama is virtually guaranteed of a playoff spot.
Turning to the trends, Alabama has won the last six games in the series and has covered the spread in four of those meetings. Mississippi State has been very good against the spread lately, though, going 8-2 ATS in its last 10 SEC games. The Bulldogs have also covered in three out of four road games this year.
(Photo credit: RammaJammaYellaHamma (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.)