Primetime College Football: Bulldogs vs Tide
This game goes down on the ESPN2 network and it features Mississippi State University Bulldogs taking on the University of Alabama Crimson Tide at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Head coach Dan Mullen’s Bulldogs are on a roll right now. MSU dropped back-to-back games against nationally-ranked Auburn and LSU, but have won six games straight since, including a 24-17 victory over Kentucky two weeks ago. It is the team’s longest win streak since 1999. The Bulldogs were idle this past week and enter this contest with a 7-2 record overall, including 3-2 in the SEC.
The Bulldogs strength on the offensive side of the football has come on the ground, with MSU ranking among the SEC’s best rushing attacks at 218.7 yards per game, on 5.0 yards per carry. Out of the 30 touchdowns scored by the offense, 19 have come on the ground.
Tailback Vick Ballard has been a scoring machine this season. He is averaging a hefty 6.7 yards per carry this year, with 12 touchdowns. Quarterback Chris Relf is in the mix in the backfield as well, at 4.1 ypc and three touchdowns. Relf has been an asset as a runner, but has had some inconsistencies as a passer, completing just 53.4 percent of his attempts, for 926 yards and seven touchdowns. Chad Bumphis has clearly been the top target in a limited aerial assault, leading the team with 35 receptions, for 502 yards and four touchdowns.
Mississippi State has played strong defense for the most part this season, limiting foes to just 17 ppg. The pass rush has generated 19 sacks, while the defense has recorded 19 turnovers.
Chris White is playing at an All-American type level. The senior linebacker leads the team in tackles (86), TFLs (13) and sacks (5), adding one INT and one fumble recovery as well.
The Crimson Tide have now split their last four games and the chance at playing for a second national title is no longer on the table. The team is still a dangerous offensive team that uses the run at 177.4 ypg to set up the 250.4 ypg in the passing game.
The defending national champions still had an outside shot at defending their crown, but last weekend ended that notion, with a 24-21 road loss at LSU. Now at 7-2 overall and 4-2 in league play, head coach Nick Saban’s squad is two games back in the SEC West, with the start of a three-game homestand to close out the regular season.
With a backfield headlined by Heisman winner Mark Ingram, 6 ypc and nine touchdowns, and Trent Richardson, 6.9 ypc, five touchdowns, its easy to see why the team can usually move the chains on the ground. Running the football well opens things up down the field for quarterback Greg McElroy. On the season, the senior has completed 69.3 percent of his passes, for 2,004 yards and 13 touchdowns. Julio Jones has played at a high level on the outside, hauling in 55 balls, for 758 yards and four touchdowns.
The Crimson Tide lost some serious talent from last year’s defensive unit and although the team is allowing just 13 ppg in 2010, the unit hasn’t made as many game-changing plays. For one thing, the team has failed to generate much of a pass rush, with only 11 sacks this season. Alabama does have 15 interceptions on the year though, led by sophomore defensive back Robert Lester. Marcell Dareus 24 tackles, 8 TFLs, 2.5 sacks leads the way up front.
This is the 95th meeting in this longstanding series, with Alabama holding a 72-18-3 advantage all-time.
PICK: Mississippi State University Bulldogs