Alabama vs. Mississippi State Bulldogs: Keys to Victory

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On Saturday, the fifth-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide (8-1) host top-ranked Mississippi State Bulldogs (9-0) in Tuscaloosa in one of the biggest games of the entire college football season. This is what college football is all about.

Fans that are up in arms about TCU jumping Alabama in the rankings need not worry. Alabama’s destiny is in their own hands. You win and you’re in; it is as simple as that. Easier said than done, but here are few keys to getting that W.

Contain Dak Prescott

This should be obvious to even the novice football observer. Prescott has been the Heisman frontrunner for some time now and he has just been flat out terrific so far this year. He has thrown for 2,231 yards and 18 TDs while running for 779 yards and 11 more. He has drawn comparisons to Tim Tebow in regards to his massive size and incredible athleticism for that size, but he definitely has the better mechanics as a passer than Tebow.

Prescott hasn’t shown many cracks in his armor, but he has thrown seven interceptions this year including two against Arkansas a few weeks ago.

The problem with trying to contain Prescott is that he isn’t just elusive, he his tough and physical. When Alabama does blanket the MSU receivers they will have to worry about getting the 250-pound quarterback on the ground when he decides to take off.

Alabama defensive ends will need to make sure that they don’t run too far upfield and give Prescott a chance to take off up the middle, where he kills defenses. Alabama will certainly have a spy on Prescott for the majority of the game and I would assume it will either be Landon Collins or Trey DePriest. However, Reggie Ragland may actually be the best bet for the Tide as a spy. His physical play would be a good fit to get some shots on Prescott, but I’m not sure he would be able to react or chase Prescott down if needed. It is no question that containing Prescott is going to be a chore, especially since scrambling quarterbacks have given Alabama fits this year.

Control The Running Game

Even if Alabama manages to contain Prescott, the Bulldogs still boast one of the best running backs in the country. Josh Robinson has 984 yards and 11 touchdowns this season.

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Alabama has played well against stellar running backs so far, but the Bulldogs will display more read option and spread runs than the more traditional Razorback and LSU running games. Alabama controlling the clock on offense will go a long way to stopping MSU on defense. The Alabama defense is going to need some rest and if Alabama goes three-and-out as many times as they did against LSU, it is going to be a long day for that defense. Jarran Reed, A’Shawn Robinson, and Ragland are going to be tested on the inside of that Alabama defense and will have to step up.

Blake Sims Must Come Through

At home Blake Sims has been magnificent, and Alabama will need yet another big game from him. TJ Yeldon and the offensive line is banged up, so Sims and the passing game have to make plays against a Mississippi State defense that has given up just six rushing touchdowns all year.

Pass defense is where the Bulldogs have struggled, ranking 120th in the country and allowing 300 yards passing per game and over 13 yards per pass completion. Mississippi State is obviously going to try to take away Amari Cooper, whether that be rolling coverage over the top of him to take away the deep threat or just blatantly double- or triple-teaming him all day.

Against LSU, DeAndrew White, Christion Jones and OJ Howard made big plays through the air in the clutch, but Alabama will need for them to make plays all day against Mississippi State. If they do, State will be forced to give Cooper some single coverage, and that is where Alabama can truly take advantage of that weakness.

Alabama hopes it doesn’t come down to a shootout but with a high-powered offense like Mississippi State it may come down to that, and Sims and company have to be ready.

Alabama battles Mississippi State Saturday afternoon at 2:30 PM (central) on CBS.