The offense for Alabama Football got in a groove in the second half against Ole Miss, generating 18 points on three consecutive scoring drives coming out of the break. Those drives went for 70, 59, and 75 yards respectively, representing the offense’s best half of football this season relative to the level of competition.
Will the Bama offense continue trending upward on the road against Mississippi State?
The Bulldogs will have the benefit of home field advantage, but the Mississippi State defense hasn’t exactly been a roadblock this season. Zach Arnett’s unit ranks 90th in scoring defense and 98th in total defense, allowing over 400 yards and over 27 points per game on average.
These numbers include a game against FCS Southeastern Louisiana; against FBS competition, the Bulldogs are allowing over 464 yards and 34 points per game.
In two SEC losses to LSU and South Carolina, Mississippi State has given up 39 points per game and surrendered an absurd combined completion percentage of 89% (48-54) to quarterbacks Jayden Daniels and Spencer Rattler. Of course, Daniels and Rattler are both far more experienced than Alabama Football QB Jalen Milroe, and are more polished as passers at this point.
Still, this could be an opportunity for Milroe to correct some of the things with which he has struggled in his young career. While Mississippi State is by no means a cupcake, they likely represent one of the easier games remaining on the Tide’s gauntlet of an SEC schedule (sorry Coach Saban).
If Alabama Football wants to compete for an SEC Championship and College Football Playoff slot, Jalen Milroe will have to improve in his proficiency as a passer. This game could be an opportunity for Milroe and his receivers to build some chemistry that will pay dividends in the long run.
The structure of the Mississippi State defense advises this strategy anyway. The unit is 53rd nationally against the run, but ranks an abysmal 122nd against the pass.
Mississippi State defensive personnel
The Mississippi State front seven features some good players, led by veteran linebackers Jett Johnson and Nathaniel Watson. Both graduate students, Johnson and Watson have 50 career starts between them, and finished no. 1 and no. 2 in the SEC in tackles last season. They are aggressive playmakers that swarm to the ball, and combine to lead Mississippi State in nearly every defensive statistical category so far in 2023.
Senior Nathan Pickering and grad student Jaden Crumedy have been two of the better defensive linemen in the SEC for several years now, and return to anchor the Mississippi State front.
On the back end, senior cornerback Decamerion Richardson leads the Bulldog secondary. Other contributors of note include safeties Shawn Preston Jr. and Marcus Banks, who played for Alabama Football from 2019-2021.
While this isn’t a great defense statistically, it is still an SEC unit that will be very physical, particularly in the box. This will be a good litmus test for the offense of Alabama Football, for whom competition will only get increasingly tougher throughout its SEC schedule.