No.2 ranked Alabama (5-0) will be facing its largest spread (-30.5) of the season as Mississippi State (1-3) comes to Tuscaloosa with the Crimson Tide looking to beat the Bulldogs for the 13th straight meeting. It’s the 105th meeting between the SEC squads, but it’s a stretch to call it a rivalry with Alabama holding an 84-17-3 edge.
Alabama head coach Nick Saban is 17-1 all-time against the Bulldogs, 12-1 with Alabama, and they last beat Alabama in his first season as head coach with the Tide. Saban, who shook off a quick battle with COVID-19 in time to be on the sidelines at Tennessee last week, will turn 69 on Saturday.
Circa Sports opened the first college numbers in Nevada on Sunday afternoon and posted Alabama -32 with a total set at 62.5. They went to -32.5 immediately after posting and it remained there for seven hours and then it was bumped down to -32 and eventually -30.5 on Monday morning. The total got to 64 on Monday and then was dropped to 63 on Tuesday after finding money under 64.
Alabama’s largest spread this season was -28.5 was in the opener at Missouri which they failed to cover in a 38-19 win. Their average margin of victory has been 22-points.
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Kenny has Alabama tied as the second-highest rated team (135) with Ohio State. He’s been dropping Miss State weekly since their big season-opening shocker at LSU has them now set at 104.5, the 55th highest-rated team in the Nation. Bryant-Denny Stadium holds over 101,000 fans, but pandemic restrictions allow only 20 percent of capacity to attend and White said he gives Alabama no more than 2-points for home field. His numbers for the game are Alabama -32.5 and a total of 68.
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The Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook opened Alabama as the third-choice to win the National Championship at 6-to-1 odds back in January and they’re now 9-to-5 favorites with both Clemson and Ohio State each at 2-to-1 odds. Mississippi State is no longer having odds offered to win it all.
There might not be a team more affected by not having spring practice than the Bulldogs in Mike Leach’s first season as head coach. They went from a team that ran the ball 529 times with only 315 passes to a coach that likes to pass 77 percent of the time. Leach also lured senior QB, K.J. Costello, away from Stanford telling him he could win the Heisman under his offense and it all turned out beautiful for them in his first start as he threw 60 passes, completing 36 for 623 yards, 5 TDs, and 2 interceptions in a 44-34 win at Baton Rouge against the defending national champs. But after three straight losses since then, Costello is now splitting starting snaps with Will Rogers. Leach had them splits snaps in practice all week prior to this week's game.
The SEC defensive coaches figured Leach out after watching the LSU game film and they’ve had trouble ever since while being so one dimensional with an average of only 28 yards rushing between their four games which ranks dead last in the nation. Two weeks ago at Kentucky, they lost 24-2 rushing for only 20 yards. Last week against Texas A&M they lost 28-14 and rushed for -2 yards on the day. Overall, they’re allowing a respectable 295 yards per game, but Alabama is No. 3 in the nation averaging 566 yards per game. This will be Leach’s first meeting against Saban. The Bulldogs have 11 returning starters from last season’s 6-7 team.
The big news this week was Alabama losing speedster, WR Jaylen Waddle, to an ankle injury of the first play of Saturday’s 48-17 win at Tennessee. They lose his 25 catches for 557 yards and 4 TD’s but still have leading receiver Devonta Smith (556 yards) and John Metchie (499 yards) on a team loaded with future starters. The set-back just means that another five-star recruit out of high school gets his chance earlier than expected. However, some of the talking heads in the media see it differently as it relates to Alabama’s championship hopes.
“I think if you’re just talking about winning a national title, I don’t think they can win a national title without (Waddle),” ESPN’s David Pollack said on his weekly CFB Podcast. "By the way, like, yes -- Bama’s recruited at a high level. But you don’t have, like, 4-2 (40-yard-dash-timed) guys -- well, Bama actually last year, (Henry) Ruggs and (Waddle), the last year, last two years -- you don’t have 4-2, 4-3 guys sitting around.”
Again, the SuperBook in Las Vegas didn’t flinch and have the Tide as 9-to-5 favorites to win it all. QB Mac Jones has been steady in 2020 after being thrown into the fire last season as Tua Tagovailoa injured his hip against Mississippi State and missed the remaining games. He’s completed 78% of his passes for 1,905 yards, 12 TDs, and only 2 interceptions in five games.
Alabama’s high powered offense that averages 48 ppg, third-most in the nation, is not going to be the Tide’s problem in 2020. Four offensive linemen return from 2019 and they’ve been opening up massive holes for their top-2 running backs that returned. Both Najee Harris (595 yards, 14 TDs) and Brian Robinson (203 yards, 2 TD) are averaging 5.8 yards-per-carry.
But the Tide defense doesn’t resemble a Nick Saban coached team. Five defensive starters returned from 2019, but they’re giving up lots of yardage (427 yards allowed) and points (26.4 ppg). Only 21 teams give up more than the 279 ypg through the air that Alabama’s defense gives up. It’s an area of great concern for Saban. Defensive coordinator Pete Golding has been called by popular SEC broadcaster Paul Finebaum the worst defensive coordinator Saban has ever had at Alabama.
Alabama has covered eight of the last 12 meetings while winning all 12. They’ve also covered five of the last six meetings in Tuscaloosa. The strongest active trend going is that the under is 10-2-1 in the last 13 meetings. However, none of those past trends matter much here because of Mike Leach completely altering what Miss State used to be about which was traditionally running the ball and playing defense. The Bulldogs were No. 1 in total defense in 2018.
Alabama has covered their last four home games, including both games this season. They’ve also gone over in five of their last six meetings against SEC teams. Miss State has failed to cover its last six October games and also their last six against winning teams. The road underdog spot for them has been tough going 1-7 ATS in their last eight instances.
“Everything I’ve seen on the tape impresses me,” Leach said in his weekly press conference regarding his thoughts on Alabama QB Mac Jones. “You just have to play real sound, just play real sound. That’s the biggest thing. You’ve got to worry about yourself, play sound, and have all the gaps and spaces filled.”
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