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November 15, 2013
Know the Foe: Alabama
Mississippi State is coming off of its fourth conference loss of the season as it fell back under .500 with a loss at Texas A&M. The Bulldogs now face off against two-time defending National Champion #1 Alabama in Starkville.
Who: Alabama (9-0, 6-0) vs. Mississippi State (4-5, 1-4)
Where: Starkville, Mississippi ; Davis Wade Stadium
When: Saturday, November 16, 2013; 6:45 on ESPN
Series Record: Alabama leads, 75-18-3. The Last Time: Bama: 38-7, in Tuscaloosa 2012
About the Crimson Tide
What else can you say about Alabama? This is arguably the most dominant program in college football history and the run that they've made under Nick Saban since he took over in 2007 is one of the greatest runs in the history of sports. Alabama is a machine across the board and can't be beaten by anyone head-to-head unless the make mistakes.
Nick Saban has won everywhere he's been (except the Dolphins, of course) and the dynasty that he's built at Alabama is almost not fair. He's created a business-like approach in every facet of what the Crimson Tide players and personnel do daily and it's shown on the field as the Tide makes very few mistakes in their ball games. Saban has consistently had his recruiting classes at the top of the rankings in February and has gotten just about every single drop of ability out of his players and then some.
His coaching staff has also stayed together for the most part adding Doug Nussmeier when Jim McElwain took off to coach Colorodo State. The offensive approach still hasn't changed much and Alabama is still Alabama there. Defensively is where they've maintained the most respect over the years. Kirby Smart has done a fantastic job with the defense that he's been given over Saban's tenure and it's shown in most defensive categories and the overall record of 72-13 in Saban's seven years.
The Offense: Alabama is lead by fifth-year senior A.J. McCarron who has done nothing but become one of the biggest passers in school history. The most important part of his resume is the fact that he's 34-2 in his career and just one win away from tying Jay Barker for the all-time record for a quarterback at Alabama. McCarron might be the biggest loss for the Tide next season as he's the ultimate game manager. He doesn't blow anyone away with his skill, although he's got a lot of that as well and he's developed as a passer. McCarron might be the best player not consistently talked about in the Heisman Trophy race as he's lit up the stat sheet through the air throwing for 2041 yards on the season on 159-229 with 19 touchdowns and three interceptions.
It helps to have great receivers and that's exactly what McCarron has to throw to with Christion Jones, Kevin Norwood, DeAndrew White and Amari Cooper leading the way. Jones has become a special teams star this season with 672 yards returning kicks and punts for two touchdowns. His receiving ability is underrated, however, as he's led the team in catches with 28 for 281 yards and two more touchdowns.
Norwood is a Mississippi native who has shined since moving out of state and he leads the team in yards with 386 on 27 catches also leading the team with four touchdowns. Cooper had a fantastic freshman season but has been keyed on a bit more this year although he's coming on lately. The talented sophomore has 23 catches for 350 yards and two touchdowns. Though he's not made as many plays as he did a year ago, he's making the most out of them when he gets the opportunity going for 15.2 yards per catch.
The offensive line reloaded with a strong front and they're blocking for another purebred stable of running backs that are led by sophomores T.J. Yeldon and Kenyan Drake. The group as a whole averages over 200 yards a game. Yeldon is building off a strong freshman year and has rushed 140 times for 862 yards and 12 touchdowns averaging 6.2 yards per rush. Drake is right behind him carrying the ball 73 times for 556 yards and seven more touchdowns. Containing the group has been hard for any defense in Saban's reign and they've continued to show their prowess this season is no different.
Defense: Alabama has always had the defense leading the program, but with an even more high-powering offense this season the defense has more pressure off of it to perform. Always filled with stars, Bama lost its top safety for the season when Vinnie Sunseri went down midseason after leading the league in pick sixes with two. The next man stepped up to the plate and there hasn't been much of a drop off from the group whatsoever.
The defense as a whole is just as potent as it has been in the past as it only surrenders 281.2 yards per game. They've only surrendered seven passing touchdowns and four rushing touchdowns with the bulk of that coming in the Texas A&M game. With only 95 yards surrendered a game on the ground and 186 in the air, the suffocating defense refuses to give in and chokes out the opposing offenses early giving them little chance for four quarters.
The veteran, impact senior lineback C.J. Mosley has had the type of season he was expected to with already 71 tackles with 7.0 coming for loss. Trey DePriest and Denzel Devall as well as Adrian Hubbard also do the bulk of the work in the linebacking group with a combined 12 tackles for loss and five sacks. The group does their usual work sideline-to-sideline eliminating the outside threat with speed and quickness as well as power.
The defense as a whole has brought in 15 sacks and 44 tackles for loss while forcing eight interceptions. The secondary has brought in the majority of those being led by Landon Collins and Cyrus Jones with three between the two. It's another solid group across the board for Smart and the Bulldogs will have their hands full, especially if there is no Dak Prescott on Saturday.
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