2017 Alabama Football opponents from worst to best: Mississippi State

TUSCALOOSA, AL - NOVEMBER 12: Joshua Jacobs /

Each Monday leading up to the 2017 Alabama football season we will focus on a Tide opponent from the projected worst team to the best.

The rundown of the 2017 Alabama football season started with this report on the Mercer Bears. Then we covered Fresno State, Colorado State and last week Vanderbilt.

2017 Alabama Football Opponents from Worst to Best

No. 12 – Mercer Bears

No. 11 – Fresno State Bulldogs

No. 10 – Colorado State Rams

No. 9 – Vanderbilt Commodores

No. 8 – Mississippi State Bulldogs

Going into this ‘worst to best’ exercise we knew picking the ‘worst’ of teams would be easy. Picking the top three ‘best’ teams did not seem too difficult. The middle grouping is another matter entirely.

Why not Ole Miss?

We could make an argument that the No. 8 team should be Ole Miss or Arkansas or Texas A&M or Tennessee. Encountering this tough challenge we realized it is important to define when ‘worst’ or ‘best’ applies. That ‘when’ must be when the opponent plays Alabama.

Before we delve into the Bulldogs, we’ll explain why we did not choose Ole Miss as the No. 8 ‘worst’ team. If pressed for a pick of who will win the 2017 Egg Bowl, we would quickly choose Mississippi State. Why not designate Ole Miss as No. 8 worst?

We expect Ole Miss to increasingly pay a NCAA toll throughout the season. After three wins early, Ole Miss could go 2-7 the rest of the way. But the Alabama game will be their 2017 bowl game. They will likely be undefeated and rested after an open week. We expect them to play their best 2017 game against the Tide.

No. 8, Mississippi State Bulldogs, November 11, Starkville, MS

Let’s begin with three quick facts. In 2016, the Bulldogs won six games. The sixth win was a bowl victory over Miami of Ohio. Alabama football defeated Mississippi State  51-3. Alabama football has won nine straight against the Bulldogs.

Nick Fitgerald is a top SEC quarterback. Greg McElroy has stated Fitzgerald will be the best SEC QB in 2017. The problem with over-rating the Bulldogs is Fitzgerald accounted for 35 touchdowns last season and the Bulldogs were 3-5 in the SEC.

While Fitzgerald is a strong runner, he has been an inconsistent passer. He may not have much upside over last season. The Bulldogs have other good players: offensive lineman Martinas Rankin, running back Aerus Williams, linebacker, Leo Lewis. State also returns four starting offensive linemen.

The main 2016 problem for the Bulldogs was on defense. The secondary was very weak last season. New defensive coordinator, Todd Grantham has loaded up with seven junior college transfers. Grantham has the reputation of making defenses better though that has not brought him long tenure anywhere.

The Bulldogs may have a competent defense by November but a complete defensive turnaround is not likely.

Given the 2016 facts listed above, the gap between the Bulldogs and the Tide is too great for a big change in 2017. The Bulldogs will battle the Tide at home but the outcome should be the tenth straight win for Alabama football.

A few months ago we listed the coaches with the worst records against Alabama football. Check out where Dan Mullin ranked in our list of the ‘Worst of All-Time’ opponent coaches.

Next: 10 Tide Players who could surprise in 2017

Check back with us next Monday when we post the No. 7 ‘worst/best’ Tide opponent in 2017. Ole Miss, Tennessee, Arkansas and Texas A&M are possibilities.