10 bold predictions for the Alabama-Mississippi State game
With several high profile games on the docket in Week 11, Alabama-Mississippi State won’t be the most hyped college football contest of the weekend — or even in the SEC — but it will be extremely important for both teams.
Based on the betting line, No. 2 Alabama (9-0, 6-0) faces its toughest SEC test to date this season when it travels to Starkville to take on No. 16 Mississippi State (7-2, 3-2) at 7 p.m. ET Saturday.
The line is 14.5 points, the lowest its been for any SEC team against the Tide this season.
Here are 10 bold predictions for the game:
1. Holcombe leads Alabama in tackles
With the losses to injury of Shaun Dion Hamilton and Mack Wilson, there is a massive hole at Mike linebacker in Alabama’s defense. If there is one thing that Keith Holcombe can do, it’s fill a hole — he is a linebacker, after all.
The redshirt junior has already shown that he is capable of making plays, as he’s recorded 30 tackles, a sack and four pass-breakups in limited duty this season.
He’s no Hamilton, but he is more than ready to adequately serve as his replacement.
2. Mississippi State is winning at halftime
The Tide will be on the road in a tough environment a week after a physical, emotional game against rival LSU.
On top of that, State has more than likely been preparing for Alabama over the last couple of weeks — they played UMass last Saturday.
The Bulldogs could hold a slight halftime lead if the Tide isn’t careful.
3. Robert Foster gets deep on State’s defense
Foster hasn’t made the type of impact that many thought he would heading into this season. He’s one of the fastest players on the Alabama team, but that’s only resulted in 9 receptions for 119 yards and a touchdown.
Still, his long frame (6-2, 194 pounds) combined with that blazing speed means he’s capable of blowing the top off of any defense.
Don’t be surprised if we see a play on Saturday similar to the one below:
Hurts to former five star recruit Robert Foster for the score. Both QBs taking advantage of the secondary early. pic.twitter.com/xf88XOBqtc
— Dakota Moyer (@DakMoyer) June 11, 2017
4. Nick Fitzgerald has more touchdowns than turnovers
Last year, Fitzgerald only managed to accumulate 160 yards of total offense (145 passing, 15 rushing) for State. He also wasn’t able to generate any touchdowns in a 51-3 loss. He did, however, throw an interception.
Look for the redshirt junior to slightly improve that TD/TO ratio against an Alabama defense that is dealing with some key injuries.
5. Levi Wallace returns another INT for a touchdown
Unlike last year, Alabama isn’t making a living this season off of defensive turnovers that are returned for a touchdown.
The only player who has taken one of the team’s 12 interceptions back was none other than Levi Wallace in Week 5 against Ole Miss.
— Green Machine (@99RaiderNation) October 1, 2017
Fitzgerald plays a better game this go around, but he still ends up making a costly mistake that Wallace capitalizes on.
6. The Tide allow more sacks than the Bulldogs
Alabama has only allowed 15 sacks this season — good for fifth in the SEC — but four of those came last week against a solid defensive front for LSU.
State is 11th in the conference in sacks (17), so this prediction isn’t based on the Bulldogs’ defense being able to generate pressure.
This has to do with State’s ability to protect the quarterback. They’ve only given up five sacks all season, and that’s with projected first-round NFL lineman Martinas Rankin missing significant time.
Alabama has been on a tear recently in the sack department — 24 in the last five games — but they end up being slightly edged out by the Bulldogs on Saturday.
7. Alabama forces a turnover on special teams
Whether it be a blocked punt or a forced fumble on a kickoff, the Tide’s special teams seem to find a way to get it done in clutch moments.
With this being a key game on the road against a hot Mississippi State team, expect one of Alabama’s special teams units to step up in a big way to give the team a crucial turnover.
In fact, let’s take it a step further and say that it’s the difference in the game.
8. Raekwon Davis continues his sack streak
At 6-7, 306 pounds, Davis isn’t only the type of player who you would want to be the first off the bus.
Come to find out, he can get after the quarterback too.
Bama soph Raekwon Davis beats the right guard for a free run at Francois. pic.twitter.com/TrjdEQmoBJ
— Ben Griffin (@TD_BenGriffin) September 7, 2017
Davis has recorded at least one sack in each of the last five games — 6.5 on the season — and while State isn’t giving up many sacks, it’s quite possible for the sophomore to continue to streak.
9. Pappanastos misses first field goal since Week 5
It seems like Alabama has finally found its kicker in Ole Miss transfer Andy Pappanastos.
He missed two field goals in Week 1 against Florida State and then another against Ole Miss in Week 5. Pappanastos has been a perfect since then, however, going 6-for-6.
He’s now up to an 82.4-percent conversion rate on his field goal attempts, which is the best mark for an Alabama kicker since Leigh Tiffin in 2009 (85.7 percent).
It’s been a good run, but will that change on Saturday?
10. State falls to Alabama for 10th year in a row
This statistic may blown your mind, but with an Alabama victory on Saturday, Mississippi State would become the third SEC team — yes, you read that correctly — to have gone over a decade without beating a Saban-led Alabama team.
The only time the Bulldogs were able to get the best of Saban was in his first season in 2007 — a 17-12 victory for State.
If you’re wondering about the other two teams, look no further than Tennessee and Arkansas.