As the College Football Playoff nears and the world looks to a semifinal matchup against teams with similar styles in Alabama and Michigan State, the question on the minds of Spartans fans and many others is how to attack an Alabama defense that has been historically great, particularly down the stretch.

The Crimson Tide has given up 23 or more points just twice this season and is holding opponents to an average of 14.4. Teams are rushing for just rushing for just 74 yards per game and passing for 184. Alabama hasn’t allowed more than 16 points in a game since winning 41-23 at Texas A&M on Oct. 17.

Outside of that, the Tide gave up 43 points in a loss to Ole Miss on Sept. 19, but frankly there was some luck — and five Bama turnovers — involved in the Rebels ability to put up so many points. Still, Ole Miss was able to put up 433 yards of total offense in the victory.

What’s clear is that Michigan State won’t be able to line up and run between the tackles against the Tide. Ole Miss was only able to generate 92 rushing yards and Big Ten opponent Wisconsin only netted 40 yards on the ground in the season opener. Throughout the season Alabama has shut down top-notch running backs including Nick Chubb, Leonard Fournette, Alex Collins and more.

Handing the ball off to a running back and expecting to consistently gain yards is almost out of the question and for as much credit as the Tide’s front seven get, and deservedly so, it hasn’t been particularly easy to pass the ball against Bama either with defensive backs such as Eddie Jackson capable of making big plays and forcing turnovers.

Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook has been efficient for the Spartans, throwing 24 touchdowns with just five interceptions, but he’s not the kind of dual threat who has given Alabama more trouble than straight dropback quarterbacks.

While Alabama only allowed six points against Mississippi State, the Bulldogs were able to move the ball a little with Dak Prescott throwing for 304 yards. Prescott, while limited to 58 yards rushing, was able to move outside the pocket and create more time to throw the ball while forcing Bama’s defensive backs to hold their coverage for long periods of time. Mississippi’s Chad Kelly had similar success in keeping plays alive by rolling outside the pocket and avoiding tackles while under pressure.

Frankly, that bodes well for the Tide, at least in the semifinal round. It would be out of character for Michigan State to try anything other than the smashmouth approach, but that essentially amounts to resting hopes on the defense and winning the turnover battle.

If Alabama advances, both Clemson and Oklahoma are potentially the kinds of offenses that could give the Tide more trouble.