It’s really very simple for Mississippi State and Alabama. The winner of Saturday’s monumental SEC clash at at Bryant-Denny Stadium will likely clinch one of the four coveted spot in the College Football Playoff.
The 9-0 Bulldogs own the top ranking in all the a major polls, including the CFP committee’s, but a victory on Alabama’s home field would afford them some insurance should they suffer a loss later in the season. Mississippi State can also put a dent in Alabama’s 18-77-3 all-time series record.
The last time the Bulldogs beat Alabama was 2007, but they’ve overcome significant odds all season. Led by quarterback Dak Prescott, they marched into Death Valley and began the charge to No. 1 with a 34-29 upset over LSU, then rocked Texas A&M and Auburn in consecutive weeks. Prescott’s launched 18 touchdowns, two of which came in last week’s 45-16 rout of Tennessee-Martin, and rushed for another 11 scores.
The blowout also allowed head coach Dan Mullen to largely rest top running back Josh Robinson, who’s second in the SEC with 984 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns.
The No. 4 Crimson Tide grouped after their letdown to Ole Miss a month ago, and once again look like the class of the conference. Riding a four-game winning streak, three of which were on the road, head coach Nick Saban’s squad took down Texas A&M 59-0 and bucked off LSU in overtime 20-13 last week.
Much of the credit is due to senior quarterback Blake Sims and SEC-leading receiver Amari Cooper. After throwing three interceptions in the Tide’s first five games of the season, Sims has looked far more poised in the pocket while throwing nine touchdowns with no picks. Still, while he’s avoided turnovers, Sims needs to work on his accuracy following the 20-for-45 performance against LSU.
But Cooper’s been the true star of Alabama’s recent surge, and can help Sims look far better. The junior’s racked up 1,215 yards and 10 touchdowns, including a monster 224 yards at Tennessee and a 23-yard score versus LSU.
How the Bulldogs handle Cooper will be the key to the game. Mississippi State sends out the lowest-ranked pass defense in the SEC, allowing more than 300 yards per game and 14 total touchdowns. Though the Bulldogs are fourth in the conference with 12 interceptions, with three apiece for defensive back Will Redmond and linebacker Richie Brown.
Start Time: 3:30 PM ET
TV Channel: CBS
Live Online Stream: A live stream is available at CBS Sports here
Updated Betting Odds: Alabama -10
Over/Under: 54.5 points
Prediction: Alabama over Mississippi State 33-23