What Mississippi State Must do to Beat Alabama


Oct 24, 2015; Starkville, MS, USA; Mississippi State Bulldogs quarterback Dak Prescott (15) warms up before the game against the Kentucky Wildcats at Davis Wade Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

If you’ve been paying attention to the sports media this week, you know that not very many people are giving Mississippi State much of a chance to beat Alabama on Saturday.  That’s not surprising, given the Tide’s dominating performance in a 30-16 victory over LSU last week.  There’s also the matter of history – MSU doesn’t have great track record against Alabama.  So it’s not surprising the experts are almost unanimously picking the Crimson Tide to win the game.

So what would it take for MSU to defeat Alabama?  Is it even possible?  Is there any plausible scenario in which the Bulldogs can take down the Tide?

Well, as I’m fond of saying, football games are won on the field and not on paper.  Upsets happen in college football every week. Certainly the Bulldogs have a chance to win the game but in order for that to occur, a few things will to need to happen.

First, the Bulldogs are going to have run the ball at least enough to keep the Tide defense honest.  Don’t get me wrong – State is not going to win by running the football. MSU hasn’t run the ball well against anyone all season.  Even LSU, with perhaps the best running back in college football, couldn’t run effectively against Alabama.

But the Bulldogs must figure out a way to run the ball enough to keep the Tide defense from totally keying on the passing attack.  Whether it’s the occasional draw play, the speed option, or some version of the zone read, MSU must find a way to earn a few yards on the ground in order to be effective in the passing game.

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Sustaining offensive drives will be key as well. By hook or by crook, MSU’s offense needs to move the chains and sustain offensive momentum.  Offensive execution is a must.  When plays are there, the offensive must make them.  Even on drives that do not result in scores, it will be important to avoid three-and-outs to keep the defense off the field as much as possible.

Turnovers generally play a huge role in determining the outcome of a game, and the Bulldogs need to be on the plus side of the turnover margin.  Turnovers received need to be capitalized upon, and MSU can ill afford to give the Tide a short field or a defensive score.

The Bulldogs must win the special teams battle.  A special teams score would be huge for Mississippi State, but at the very least MSU needs to use its kicking game to control field position. Breakdowns in the kicking game are an absolute back breaker against a team like Alabama and must be avoided.

Lastly, the home crowd must do its part. Davis Wade Stadium has gained quite a reputation as an intimidating place for visiting teams. There’s no reason for this game not to be the most difficult road game of the season for the Crimson Tide, and it will be solely up to the fans to make that happen.