Mississippi State football: Is Alabama ripe for an upset by the Bulldogs in 2020?

What will it take for the Mississippi State football team to pull an upset against Alabama this year? Maybe not as much as some may believe.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a Mississippi State football fan or a fan of any other team in the SEC. You want to beat Alabama and Nick Saban.

Yeah, LSU won the conference and the national title last year, but let’s face it, Alabama is still the team with the biggest target on their back. They’ve dominated the conference for so long, it’s become almost a surprise when they aren’t there at the end.

The last time Mississippi State beat Alabama – 2007 in Starkville — was part of a rare back-to-back pair of wins over the Crimson Tide. It was also leading into the early years of the Dan Mullen regime, and gave Bulldog fans some real hope for the future.

The Tide lead the overall series with Mississippi State 82-18-3, so anytime a win is in sight or even mildly thought of as being possible, it’s a big deal.

Is it possible in 2020 more than any of the last 12 years? There’s no easy answer since so much is up in the air right now for everyone in college football, but based on what happened to Alabama last year and what they look to have this year, the Bulldogs may actually have a legitimate shot.

Why should Mississippi State football fans be optimistic against Alabama?

Everything points to the same thing it does every season. Don’t make mistakes. Slow down their offense. Get some big plays of your own.

But this year it truthfully feels a little different. Not because there’s been some big turnaround suddenly at Mississippi State, but because they’re going to be throwing an offense at Alabama which has been successful by other teams.

Will the Crimson Tide be solid on defense, especially against the pass? Bama defensive coordinator Pete Golding has come under some fire in the last couple of seasons, and with good reason.

Alabama always loses a lot of talented players to the NFL Draft, but this year, in particular, it seems even more damaging to their starting lineup. They’re still returning some huge talent, but they’ll also have to fill some huge holes, and the gap in recruiting has been severely lessened by the likes of Kirby Smart, Dabo Swinney, Ed Orgeron, and others.

Nick Saban still draws in his share of top-line recruits, but he’s not overloaded and turning people away as he has been in the past.

Alabama is losing seven quality defensive players this season, four of them from the secondary. Cornerback Trevon Diggs and safety Xavier McKinney are two players that will be very hard to replace.

This is an Alabama team that could potentially be vulnerable to a quick-strike, pass-heavy offense such as Mike Leach plans to run at Mississippi State. With the game not until October 17, there will be plenty of time for the Bulldogs offense to work out the kinks and get rid of the new playbook jitters.

When this game rolls around, K.J. Costello could very well be picking defenses apart.

The biggest challenge for Mike Leach and his staff will be figuring out how to slow down what will probably still be a very explosive Alabama offense. Even without Tua Tagovailoa, Henry Ruggs III and Jerry Jeudy, Nick Saban still has plenty of weapons on offense, and there are probably a lot of programs in the nation who wish they had Mac Jones stepping in to play QB.

Improvements on defense will be a must for Mississippi State to even start thinking upset against Alabama. Giving up 246 yards per game in the air is not part of the blueprint, nor is giving up 29 points per game.

Is this the year a long streak of losses is vanquished? It seems more probable than in past years. What a sight it would be to see the Bulldogs roll into Tuscaloosa and hand Saban his first conference loss of the year

 

 

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