On Friday night, according to FanDuel, Alabama Football remained a 14.5-point favorite over Mississippi State. The line had been steady all week. As I offered on Friday afternoon, my prediction was an even bigger winning margin for the Crimson Tide.
A big win would be fun, but I’ll be happy with a non-spread covering win if Alabama does well in five important areas. The road win would be important, but more important is the Crimson Tide’s progress in preparation for future games.
I’ll take a single-digit win on Saturday night, if comes from a late Mississippi State scoring push, and was preceded by three or four Tide possessions with Ty Simpson leading the first unit. Make no mistake, I’m all-in on Jalen Milroe, but Alabama also needs a backup quarterback the coaches and players have confidence in.
Alabama Football: Four more key areas for MSU game
- Play smart football
No team is ever mistake-free but Alabama needs to produce a clean game, with very little impact from penalties, turnovers, missed assignments, and unforced errors.
- Consistent pass protection
Only seven FBS teams have allowed more sacks than Alabama and one of the seven has played five games. The Crimson Tide is No. 126 in Sacks Allowed. This challenge for marked improvement is on the Tide’s offensive line and the quarterbacks, who have too often held the ball too long. I could have and should have, added a stand-alone key of no poor snaps.
- Consistent, productive running game
Alabama has the backs to be one of the national rushing leaders. So far this season, Jase McClellan and Roydell Williams have too often needed broken tackles to make five-plus yard runs. Alabama Football is No. 86 in the FBS with a rushing average of 3.99 yards.
On third-down runs, Roydell Williams has been the Tide’s best, but he is No. 23 in the SEC at an average of just three yards. For the same stat, McClellan’s average is 1.33 yards.
- Solid performances at inside linebacker
Without Deontae Lawson, Tezmen Marshall and Jihaad Campbell are expected to start inside. At best it sounds as if Lawson will be questionable for the Texas A&M game. Marshall and Campbell need to perform well against State, as a preparation for the Aggies. The same is true when Kendrick Blackshire subs in, and also for Justin Jefferson if his role increases in Starkville.
If the Crimson Tide does well in all five areas, unless Mississippi State plays its best game (by far) of the season, the outcome could be a Crimson Tide blowout.