One week after Alabama bludgeoned LSU to death, the Tide are back in action taking on another SEC West foe: Mississippi State. The Bulldogs were placed highly in preseason rankings, picked to finish 3rd in the division.
Currently, MSU is 6-3 with losses to Kentucky, Florida and LSU. Mississippi State currently sits in 5th in the West.
Let’s look at key points to the game Saturday.
Keeping Nick Fitzgerald inside the pocket
Saturday will present a dramatic difference in quarterback play from what Alabama saw a week ago against LSU. Nick Fitzgerald can, and will, run the ball, which is historically the type of quarterback that gives Alabama fits.
Fitzgerald has over 800 yards rushing and nine rushing touchdowns this season; making sure he doesn’t gash the defense on runs, especially on third downs, will be critical.
Alabama must make him beat you throwing the ball – easier said than done as the Tide secondary gets better and better each week.
If Mississippi State has any chance of winning this game, Fitzgerald is going to have to play lights-out. I don’t see that happening against this defense.
Attacking Mississippi State’s strongest unit on defense
It almost feels counterintuitive to say this, but Alabama’s offense should come out and attack the Bulldogs in their strongest area which is their defensive line. The Tide offensive line had its best outing as a unit last week as the offense rushed for more than seven yards a carry. That breaks the will of a defense.
If anything, last week’s game proved just how balanced Alabama can be on offense. By allowing your run game the opportunity to catch up to Tua Tagovailoa and the passing game, it makes life even harder for defensive coordinators. We all know how good Tua and his receivers are. Now, the offensive line can take another leap forward by showing just how good they can be against the best defensive front in the SEC.
Don’t give Joe Moorhead opportunities to be creative
Joe Moorhead is really good at offense. Though he is still finding that balance at Mississippi State, he hasn’t gotten worse at drawing up incredible plays to run.
Don’t give him the opportunity.
The Bulldogs are going to need everything to go right for them in order to simply stay in the game. The more opportunities Moorhead has to open up the playbook and try new things, the more dangerous this offense is. Alabama will need to keep Mississippi State in long yardage situations and get off the field on those third downs. The Bulldogs are currently ranked 29th in the nation at converting third downs this year. Similarly, Alabama is ranked 11th in stopping teams on third down.
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