Oct 27, 2012; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide linebacker Denzel Devall (30) goes after Mississippi State Bulldogs quarterback Dak Prescott (15) after the ball was fumbled at Bryant Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Mississippi State Bulldogs: Keys to Victory

This Saturday No. 1 Alabama (9-0) heads to Starkville, MS to face SEC West foe Mississippi State (4-5).

Alabama is coming off a dominating win over rival LSU, while MSU has dropped two straight against SEC opponents. Last year after an emotional win over LSU, Alabama had a letdown against Texas A&M in its only loss of the year

But Mississippi State is not Texas A&M. With that said there record is very misleading as they played Texas A&M, Auburn and LSU extremely tough for three quarters. Alabama cannot have an emotional letdown this week.

QB play

A big part of this game for the Alabama defense will be who plays at quarterback for Mississippi State. Dak Prescott has taken most of the snaps for the first team this season, though Tyler Russell has played some in most games, but he is questionable this week due to an injury he suffered last week to his elbow.

The two quarterbacks are polar opposites with the way they play the game. Prescott has drawn comparisons to another former Dan Mullen QB, Tim Tebow, because of his hard-nosed running style along with his big size at the QB position. He also carries the ball oddly in his left hand (like Tebow) as he runs ,despite being a right-handed quarterback. Prescott is very agile for his size as well, but he makes some bad decisions when passing, and his accuracy gets him in trouble. Tyler Russell, on the other hand, is a pocket passer that isn’t fast enough or good enough of a runner to effectively run the read option.

Alabama will have to pay more attention to the read option and make sure the big linemen and linebackers on the field with Prescott while there will be a need for more speed rushers and defensive backs if Russell is on the field. Regardless of who it is, the Tide needs to continue the strong pass rush it boasted against LSU to affect the signal caller.

Pound the ball

Mississippi State has been very weak against the run this year and the previous five opponents have run for at least 150 yards each week. Alabama has shown just how deadly it can be offensively when it remains balanced. If the Tide is able to pound the ball as it should, that will open up the passing game and more big plays for McCarron and his receivers. MSU has allowed at least 400 yards total on offense against three teams this year (LSU, Auburn, and Texas A&M), so if Alabama plays its game and stays committed to that balance they should be able to equal the numbers those teams managed.

Stay focused

Alabama has the better athletes across the board, but the biggest obstacle for Alabama this week will be staying focused and not letting complacency set in. Games like this tend to be “trap games” after a big win, but Nick Saban has been preaching all week about staying focused and making sure his team focuses on the little things to make sure these Bama boys don’t fall into that trap.

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