Attention finally turns to an Alabama football SEC, road game. Three questions loom as the Crimson Tide prepares for Mississippi State.
The Nick Saban 24-hour rule was ignored by most Alabama football fans this week. Crimson Tide conversations were dominated by the LSU loss and the CFB Playoff. No such indulgence was tolerated from the Tide staff and players. Inside the massive machine that is Alabama football, it has been business as usual in Tuscaloosa.
The Mississippi State Bulldogs are down this season. Their record is 4-5. A 6-6 finish is what most Bulldogs’ fans are hoping will happen, requiring an Egg Bowl win over Ole Miss. An upset of the Alabama Crimson Tide would be huge but some MSU fans would trade it for a guaranteed win over Ole Miss.
Mississippi State, head coach, Joe Moorhead has had it tough replacing Dan Mullen. Rebuilding the defense after last season has not been accomplished. One major reason is, no fault of Moorhead, due to academic fraud,10 of his players incurred eight-game suspensions this season.
The MSU defense has been weak. One clear strength for the Bulldogs is running the football. Kylin Hill is a tough, shifty runner who averages 5.84 yards-per-carry. Another rushing threat for the Bulldogs is quarterback, Garrett Shrader who averages 5.48 yards-per-carry. The probable QB starter for Saturday is Tommy Stevens. Stevens is best throwing the ball but he is a capable runner as well.
Given the running threat, the Alabama football defensive staff will not be in dime as it was so frequently against LSU. Many Crimson Tide fans would be glad to see only base and nickel defenses if it means, inside linebacker, Markail Benton watches the game from the bench. Stated as kindly as possible – Benton was ineffective against LSU.
Big Question No. 1 – Christian Harris rather than Benton?
Many Alabama football fans would like to see Harris replace Benton for the rest of the season. Given less need to play dime against the Bulldogs, could some rotation of Shane Lee and Harris leave Harris on the field to work with the Tide’s dime units?
Most Tide fans understand questioning Defensive Coordinator Pete Golding means also questioning Nick Saban. Despite such heresy, there is a growing sense, some big changes are needed in the Tide’s defense. The next two weeks would be a good time to work on any changes.
Big Question No. 2 – Protect Tua’s recovery by starting Mac Jones?
Tua limped through the LSU game and performed admirably. He was exactly what Nick Saban called him – a warrior. No one who saw him walk off the field Saturday evening doubted he was in pain. Would a week or even two away from game action allow him to be more physically prepared to battle Auburn’s tough defense? Or would the rustiness that would result mean a slow start against the Tigers?
Mac Jones can most likely lead the Crimson Tide to win over MSU. There is a chance it might be a close win. Nothing should ever be assumed about an SEC road game.
Big Question No. 3 – Does the Tide need a BIG win to influence the Selection Committee?
It is impossible to know what is the minds of the CFB Selection Committee. There is a persuasive argument the floating standards used in the past are necessary to determine the “best four teams.” Past committees have appeared to highly value “eye ball” tests of the final top group of teams. Nick Saban disdains running up scores. He might need to accept the best plan is to beat the Bulldogs as soundly as possible.
Of course, making a choice to keep churning points, might require Tua to play most of the game. Don’t dare ask Nick Saban his opinion on this issue. His wrath would not be feigned.