Posted on November 7, 2017, by Travis Pulver
There are specific questions college football fans have come to expect to ask every season around this time. Who is going to play for the national title? Who’s going to win which conference? Which coach is going to get fired first? For the most part, these questions and more can be answered with relative ease. But there is one that can’t be answered easily—who can beat Bama?
Many thought Florida State would have a shot in the season opener. But the game ended up not being a close one. There was hope LSU might, but the Tigers were not able to get the job done. Texas A&M came the closest, but coming close to beating someone means the same as getting blown out.
You still lost.
Beating Alabama requires a team to do two things—keep the Bama offense off the field and score when your offense is on it. Simple enough, right? So, you need a massive defensive line to stop Alabama’s run game. You also need a massive offensive line to handle Alabama’s defensive line so that you can run the ball as well.
Can Mississippi State do it? They average 259.3 yards/game on the ground (No. 11 in the nation), so their offensive line must be doing something right. Then again, they haven’t played a run defense like Alabama’s (No. 2; 75.8 yards/game allowed). Their run defense is respectable (No. 23; 123.1 yards/game allowed). But they haven’t seen a run game like Alabama’s (No. 9; 278.4 yards/game).
Alabama has won 37 of their last 39 games. If Mississippi State is going to do it, it will not be easy.
So—who’s going to win?
Mississippi State quarterback Nick Fitzgerald is an exceptional player. He has the size every head coach dreams his starting quarterback will have (6’5” and 230 pounds). Along with Aeris Williams, the Bulldogs have a nice one-two punch running the ball. But to beat Alabama, they will need Fitzgerald to throw the ball.
If Alabama has a weakness, it is their own passing game. Jalen Hurts is a good passer, but he is far from great. His threat is more as a runner. But if the Bulldogs can get out to an early lead and force Alabama to go to their passing game, they might be able to pull off the upset.
Of course, to do so, they are going to need to establish some semblance of a run game. With the injuries Alabama has had at linebacker, their chances of doing so might not be that bad. LSU ran for 151 yards and controlled the clock for 34 minutes.
If they had a better quarterback than Danny Etling, they might have won. But when the run failed, and they turned to the passing game, it failed as well.
Mississippi State has a better quarterback. An argument could be made that they have a better run game as well. So, if LSU can give Alabama a run for its money, why not Mississippi State?
It could happen—but let’s be real. Alabama is too strong and too deep on defense to lose to a team with a one-dimensional offense like Mississippi State. However, the oddsmakers have made Alabama a two-touchdown favorite.
Alabama will win but not by more than 14 points. Take Mississippi State and the points.