Even after a big win against Tennessee last week, the #2 Alabama Crimson Tide were questioned on their College Football Playoff legitimacy due to the injury to their star wide receiver Jaylen Waddle. On Halloween night, Alabama was set to host a potentially dangerous Mississippi State Bulldogs and their air raid offense. Both the Tide and the Bulldogs have seen dramatic changes from the beginning of the season to now. The Tide didn’t want to take any chances against the Bulldogs, led by head coach Mike Leach, to gain any momentum to be another top-ten ranked team. The Tide showed that injuries and outside noise would not slow them down as they won big 41-0. This was the first time a team coached under Leech that was shut down. It is also the first-ever between coach Saban and Leach as head coaches.
DeVonta Smith Has Another Huge Game
This game against Mississippi State would be the second game offensively for Alabama without Waddle. The Tide needed to continue to develop their explosive passing game without their dynamic receiver. Senior wide receiver DeVonta Smith has shown numerous times to be the receiver to be called upon in key situations. In the beginning, the receivers were held numerous times while the Bulldogs were called for pass interference penalties. This eliminated the big plays early in the first couple of drives. When the Tide was able to adjust, that’s when Smith found his consistentcy. In the first quarter, Smith caught six receptions for 130 yards and two against the Bulldogs. In the first half, Smith caught nine receptions for 159 yards and three touchdowns.
The Tide was up 27-0 on the Bulldogs going into halftime but that did not stop them from driving the ball down the field. The Bulldogs defense came out with more consistency in the third quarter as they held the Tide to 81 total yards. At the beginning of the fourth, quarterback Mac Jones found one more score to Smith for a 10-yard play. Smith finished with 11 receptions for 203 yards and four touchdowns. Smith has remained as one of the most explosive and reliable wide receivers in the nation. He is currently the highest-graded wide receivers in the nation by Pro Football Focus with a grade of 92.2. Finally, Smith is currently third in the NCAA in receiving yards accounted for this season (759). He is also tied for third in reception touchdowns (8).
The Defense Played Their Best Performance
The defense for the Crimson Tide has come a long way since allowing 647 total yards and 268 rushing yards against Ole Miss on October 10th. Despite signs of getting better, the defense of Alabama had a big task of suppressing the Air Raid offense of Mississippi State. On Saturday, the Tide played to their full potential of allowing only 200 total yards from the Bulldogs. In the first half, the Crimson Tide only allowed 38 total yards from the Bulldogs with four of them coming from the passing game in the second quarter. Each position group of the Tide’s defense was highly efficient. The secondary played their best game of the season against a Bulldogs’ offense that constantly attacks deep. Cornerback Patrick Surtain II was completely in man-to-man assignments as he accounted for four total tackles. He also recorded a pick-six late in the fourth quarter.
Freshman star Malachi Moore led the team in total tackles accounted for eight. He also accounted for three solo tackles, one tackle for loss, and two pass breakups. True freshman Brian Branch started his first game for the Crimson Tide as a dime package cornerback. Branch accounted for seven total tackles, four solo tackles, and two pass breakups. Overall, the defense for Alabama accounted for two sacks, six tackles for loss, two interceptions, and nine pass breakups. Players like outside linebacker Will Anderson Jr. and defensive end Christian Barmore each had an impact in putting pressure on the quarterback as they both had two quarterback hits. The Tide’s defense allowed an average of 5.8 yards per completions against a determined Bulldogs defense.
Alabama Getting Closer To Clemson
The Crimson Tide have been looking like more of a complete team every week. After their most recent dominating win over Mississippi State, Alabama has been rising in the AP Poll. They have always been number two in the nation throughout the entire season but the line between them and the Clemson Tigers at #1 has been becoming thinner. The Tigers received 33 first-place votes on Sunday while the Tide received 29 first-place votes. The Tigers will face the #4 Notre Dame Fighting Irish this next Saturday night in South Bend, Indiana. They will be without quarterback Trevor Lawrence, who has been diagnosed with COVID-19. Their outcome will help determine if the Tide will be the new #1 team after this next week or if they will remain at #2.