Alabama Football: What to watch for against Mississippi State

Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports
Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports /

Game number one on the Alabama Football must-win trail is Saturday night against the Mississippi State Bulldogs. Players and coaches must focus on one game rather than a string of them, but make no mistake, beating the Bulldogs is job one in a hopefully, eight-game season.

It is almost as though the first seven games of 2022 did not matter. They did when they were played, but they don’t now. The outcome of the Tennessee game created the demarcation point.

Saturday is Homecoming in Tuscaloosa, which is great for Alabama football fans. For this season’s players, future Homecomings may be less cheerful if the Crimson Tide falls short of a championship this season.

It may work in the Bulldogs’ favor, but it can’t be helped – Saturday night is all about what the Crimson Tide does and doesn’t do.

Mike Leach has his best Mississippi State team this season, and like the Crimson Tide, they are coming off a disappointing SEC, road loss.

Alabama football fans seem to be most interested in personnel changes in the defensive backfield and at wide receiver.

Since Saturday, Alabama message boards have been filled with complaints and suggestions about the Crimson Tide secondary. Most comments have been centered on scheme concerns and juggling the lineup in the secondary.

Most of the Mississippi State receivers are big-body guys who pose a different threat than did Tennessee’s Jalin Hyatt. In Mike Leach’s possession-driven, passing attack, the Tide’s standard coverage schemes and personnel should be effective.

Possible Alabama Football Lineup Changes

If Nick Saban is considering using Eli Ricks or Khyree Jackson more and moving Terrion Arnold to Star or Money, he might want to test such changes against the Bulldogs. Alabama fans, hoping to see major changes in the secondary on Saturday night, could be disappointed. With an effective pass rush, instead of an almost non-existent one, Crimson Tide defensive backs would have played much better against the Vols.

A more likely personnel change on Saturday is at wide receiver. With Tyler Harrell, Aaron Anderson and JoJo Earle all available, the Tide’s wide receiver rotation could quickly become different. A good guess is the Tide’s three starting wideouts will be Ja’Corey Brooks, Kobe Prentice and Isaiah Bond or maybe Earle.

At 5-2, Mississippi State is a credible opponent, but the game should afford the Crimson Tide opportunities to try out some adjustments.

Next. Has Auburn has decided to bail on '23 recruiting class?. dark

Mike Leach’s Bulldogs’ offenses have never scored a touchdown on the Crimson Tide. That is not likely to continue, but the Bullies are catching the Crimson Tide at a very dangerous time.