Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Mississippi State/Alabama: Battle of the unblemished

When the 2012 SEC football schedule was released, many pundits and fans circled the games they thought would carry significance in respect to the “big picture.” Games were circled that could define the college football season, and potentially determine not only the SEC championship
winner…but also the national championship winner.

As we arrive in late October, an easy assumption can now be made. One of those “circled games”…was probably not Mississippi State at Alabama. Yet, at any rate, the top-ranked Crimson Tide will tangle with the Bulldogs in Tuscaloosa, in a season-defining game for both teams. ‘Bama and MSU are unblemished thus far in 2012; with the Bulldogs currently sitting at No. 11 in the BCS standings, No. 13 in the AP poll.

MSU head coach Dan Mullen

So what does it all mean?

Is this a game of two championship caliber fighters attempting to “duke it out” for the grand prize, or is this simply one championship contender in the ring with just another Johnny-come-lately? Is Mississippi State really tough enough, and good enough, to “poke the bear” and get away with it?

Let this “unexpected drama” commence…

Steady quarterback play has saved the day

The “knock” on MSU, for years, has been the lack of production from the quarterback position. The Bulldogs have featured a very meager passing attack, and an offense that literally lived and died with the running game. To say the MSU offense was as stagnant as murky water...would be an insult to murky water.

Enter Tyler Russell as the starter…

Life! Russell has given life to the quarterback position, and the results have been tremendous. Thus far in 2012, Russell is 122-of-203 for 1,573 yards, including 15 touchdowns to only one interception. Under Russell, the MSU offense has essentially been transformed due to his performance, and his general ability to run the offense. Never underestimate the importance of a steady quarterback. Right now, the Bulldogs are basking in the benefits.

MSU beat writer hyping the showdown in T-Town

Perkins leads MSU ground attack

LaDarius Perkins is the “heartbeat” of the State rushing attack, and is one of the reasons why Tyler Russell has been able to run such a balanced offense from the quarterback position. When the “mixed-bag” is working, more players are allowed to shine, which keeps opposing defenses looking for an answer.

Thus far in 2012, Perkins has rushed for 724 yards and eight touchdowns. Perkins is a physically “built” running back, with an excellent combination of both size and speed. The Alabama defense will have to face MSU’s version of “Eddie Lacy” come Saturday night.

In good hands with Bumphis

Chad Bumphis, who once had aspirations of attending the University of Alabama, has firmly planted himself into the “star” role on the now, highly-potent, Bulldog offense.

Bumphis is the “receiver of choice” for quarterback Tyler Russell, and his 2012 statistics showcase his worth to the State offense. With 29 pass receptions for 479 yards and six touchdowns, the Alabama secondary will need to know where Bumphis is, at all times, in order to avoid potentially game-changing plays.

As for other threats in the passing game…

Chris Smith 26 receptions 293 yards 2 TDs
Arceto Clark 15 receptions 216 yards
Marcus Green 14 receptions 166 yards 5 TDs
Brandon Heavens 6 receptions 114 yards

The final verdict

Mississippi State is a very good football team, and they are without question the best overall team Alabama has faced thus far in the 2012 season, however, the beautiful bubble is about to burst.

The Crimson Tide will enter Saturday’s contest with MSU as a 20-plus point favorite. The simplicity of a single betting line is a microcosm that
proves…the nation is not falling for the Bulldogs. Why? The reasons are many, but one of which is MSU’s strength of schedule, a schedule that shows that even the Mississippi State of old, would essentially have no choice but to be undefeated at this stage.

For the pundits who want to “talk down” Alabama due to the Tide’s lack of superior opponents, the street goes both ways. In fact, MSU has been driving in a much larger lane.

-Jackson State
-South Alabama
-Middle Tennessee

The Bulldogs have talent on both sides of the ball, and an excellent head coach in Dan Mullen, but Alabama, for yet another season, is simply in another league. Being “good” and “talented” is no longer enough to beat Alabama.

 Quick observation from Tide legend Joe Namath

To use a NASCAR reference, there is a huge difference between catching the leader, and actually making the pass. The Bulldogs have the speed, but at the end of the night…the Crimson Tide will be in victory lane.

Alabama 30
Mississippi State 13

Edwin Watts Golf

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