This Saturday night will potentially bring some scary upsets on the scariest days of the year. The #2 Alabama Crimson Tide (5-0) is looking to avoid an upset on head coach Nick Saban’s 69th birthday against a team that has made one of the biggest upsets of the season. Alabama will host the Mississippi State Bulldogs (1-3), who beat the #6 LSU Tigers 44-34 in the SEC season opener. The Bulldogs have not won a game since that huge upset as head coach Mike Leech looks to make a big culture change. Saban is trying to continue developing the Crimson Tide as more of an elite team especially after the loss of one of their star wide receivers in Jaylen Waddle last week in the 48-17 win over Tennessee. Here are some keys for Alabama against the potentially dangerous Mississippi State Bulldogs.
Alabama is Ready for Mississippi State on Halloween
Patrick Surtain II and Josh Jobe Have a BIG Role for the Tide
Leech established his Air Raid offense for Mississippi State much like he did when he was the head coach at Washington State and Texas Tech. The Bulldogs have the ninth-ranked passing defense in the nation (330.8 passing yards per game). Alabama’s defense has been hit hard in some big plays against the passing game, mostly due to inexperienced safety play. Against the Air Raid, Alabama cornerbacks Surtain and Jobe will have a big role against Mississippi State as they like to attack man-coverages. Both players have played at an elite level but their durability will be tested throughout the game.
Malachi Moore also needs to be consistent as he will put in as an extra cornerback. There are likely concerns for the Bulldogs as they will be without Tyrell Shavers, who is in the NCAA Transfer Portal. Further, star running back Kylin Hill is considering opting-out of the season to prepare for the 2021 NFL Draft process.
Alabama Can Cause Problems for the Offensive Line
Alabama has been becoming more aggressive defensively, creating chaos in the backfield. The Tide has a chance to develop themselves even more as the Bulldogs offensive line has given up 14 sacks and 23 tackles for loss in four games. Defensive linemen Christian Barmore and Phidarian Mathis can have a big game against the offensive line of the Bulldogs. Overall, the defense for the Crimson Tide has accounted for 32 tackles for loss and seven sacks. This also due to the consistency of linebackers Dylan Moses (five TFLs) and Christopher Allen (four TFLs).
Tide’s Offense Will Look to Develop More Stars
Alabama’s passing game continues to develop under second-year offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian. The Tide currently ranks third in the nation in passing yards per game (386.8) under a high-velocity quarterback Mac Jones and a slate of stout wide receivers. They will miss one of the most productive receivers and their most dynamic receiver in Waddle. DeVonta Smith and first-year starter John Metchie have been highly impactful so far this season. The Tide will ask former four-star recruit and true freshman Javon Baker and sophomore Slade Bolden to step in production. Last week in replacement of Waddle, Bolden caught six receptions for 94 yards.
Alabama will still be efficient in their run selections with Najee Harris as one of their main producers on offense. In five games so far this season, Harris has rushed for 595 yards and 14 touchdowns on 103 carries for an average of just under six yards per carry. Harris has also been an efficient option as a playmaker in the passing game with 14 receptions for 147 yards. Brian Robinson Jr. has rushed for 203 yards and two touchdowns on 35 rushing attempts. The Tide is fourth in the SEC in rushing yards per game (168.6).