Last week, Alabama suffered its first loss of the season on the road against the Tennessee Volunteers. Now, Alabama is looking to bounce back in a must-win game against the Mississippi State Bulldogs.
Mike Leach’s offense has been explosive at times since he came to Starkville, but it has lacked consistency. This seems to be the year where the Bulldogs pull it all together, as they are 5-2 with a balanced offense.
This is a pivotal moment for Mississippi State. After last week, the Bulldogs face off against three teams ranked in the top 10. However, a win against the Tide would end Alabama’s title hopes while also showing that they could score on anyone.
Alabama is expected to bounce back, but will the Tide cover the spread at the best sportsbooks? Here are some key details for the upcoming week.
Mississippi State Bulldogs vs. Alabama Crimson Tide
Saturday, October 22, 2022 – 07:00 PM EDT at Bryant-Denny Stadium
Alabama Coming off a Loss
Alabama rarely loses. I mean, the 15-game streak against Tennessee was 15 games long for a reason. In fact, the last time Alabama lost two straight games was in 2013. Alabama lost the Iron Bowl (Kick 6 edition) and then lost to Oklahoma in a disappointing Sugar Bowl performance that seemed not to matter for the squad.
The last time the Tide lost two straight games in the regular season was when Saban first took over the program. Since then, Alabama has only struggled in one regular season game following a loss, and the Tide still reached the College Football Playoff that year.
It’s safe to assume that Alabama will be motivated to play well, and the Tide will be back at home. This is also a night game, so all the momentum will be in Alabama’s favor.
A Homecoming for Alabama
This will be Alabama’s official Homecoming, which adds to the game. Fans will fill the seats and bring old energy back to Bryant-Denny Stadium. Also, Alabama has never lost a Homecoming game since Saban took over. With that type of streak, it is hard to see Mississippi State standing a chance. Alabama is heavily favored for a reason.
Still, the Bulldogs have surprised some fans this year. The offense brings more balance than Leach has ever shown, and Alabama’s defense is coming off of an embarrassing performance. Here is what Mississippi State needs to do.
Bulldogs’ Keys to Cover
First and foremost, Mississippi State needs to remain balanced on offense. In the past, Alabama has been able to win with nickel and dime coverage because the run game was not good enough to sustain drives. Now, Mississippi State needs to add balance to keep the Tide guessing.
Still, the Bulldogs need some explosive plays on both sides of the ball. It won’t be as easy as scoring on 60-yard passes. They simply need chunk plays to take the stress off of the offense. On defense, they need sacks to keep Alabama behind the chains and a few turnovers to stall drives.
Alabama has a tendency to make its own mistakes, and the Bulldogs need to capitalize on those this week. Besides that, a strong start will go a long way. If you let the crowd play a factor, this will get out of hand.
So, all of this points to Alabama winning the game, but will they cover? The line is hovering around 21 points at the moment. While I can’t imagine Alabama looking as bad on defense as they did against Tennessee, this spread is still too large against a quality offense facing an undisciplined defense.
I expect Alabama to turn things around by the end of the year, but I’ll need to see it before I put money into it. For that reason, I’m picking the Bulldogs to cover this spread.
Because of the high-scoring potential of both offenses, I’ll also take the Over. The Tide defense is likely to make mistakes that will keep this a close game, and those mistakes will also lead to the Over hitting.
Alabama’s season is pretty straightforward at this point. They have to win out to win the title, and any loss from here until the end of the season will eliminate them. It’s not about style points or anything fancy. They need to win, which they will do without covering.
NCAAF Pick: Mississippi State +21.5 (-115) at BetMGM
NCAAF Pick: Over 61.5 (-110) at Caesars Sportsbook