Even after wins over three teams ranked in the top 10 at the time and a month atop the rankings, Mississippi State travels to Alabama on Saturday as the underdog. “We know that role. We’re going to be OK with that,” coach Dan Mullen said at his weekly press conference. “Our guys are going to come in with a chip on their shoulder and play with great effort. No matter what everyone else is predicting, we want to play that way every week.” The winner not only takes control of the SEC West race but also positions itself well for one of four spots in the inaugural College Football Playoff.
Despite holding the top spot in every poll, including the playoff rankings — in which Alabama is ranked fifth — the Bulldogs seemingly have lost the confidence of many pundits, in part because of narrow escapes against Kentucky and Arkansas in recent weeks. The Crimson Tide also had a close call last week, needing to drive for a tying field goal at LSU to force overtime and claim a 20-13 victory. Alabama has dominated the series, winning six straight and 11 of the last 13, and the Crimson Tide have won 13 straight home games overall, the second-longest active streak in the nation.
TV: 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS.
LINE HISTORY: The opening line saw Alabama -7 and briefly dropped to -6.5 Monday. Since then though the line has been steadily climbing upwards and currently sits at Alabama -10. The opening total of 52 saw a quick drop to 51 before rebounding to the original 52 line.
INJURY REPORT: Miss St. – WR Jameon Lewis (Prob-Undisclosed), OL Justin Malone (Prob-Undisclosed) Alabama – RB T.J. Yeldon (Prob-Knee), OL Alphonse Taylor (Ques-Concussion)
WEATHER REPORT: Skies are expected to be all clear in Tuscaloosa Saturday. Minimal winds with temperatures around 53.6°F should make it a perfect day for football.
WHAT BOOKS SAY: “Right off the bat, we took a sizable smart bet and moved the line to -6.5. Since then, we’ve gradually moved the spread upward with both sharp and square action on Alabama. There are some big touts siding with the Tide. We’ll have plenty of teaser liability on the home team as well. I still contend that MSU is a live dog, especially at double digits.” – John Lester, Senior Lines Manager at Bookmaker.eu
WHAT CAPPERS SAY: “This game is a perfect example of why oddsmakers and point spreads do a better job of ranking teams than the pollsters. Despite being the so-called #1 team in the nation, Mississippi State is a substantial underdog versus Alabama. In fact, the sharp money has continued to push this line higher all week as Alabama opened -6.5 last Sunday and hit -10 by Friday afternoon. While some line value is now gone, I definitely agree with the line move as Alabama is the #1 team in my power ratings, while Mississippi State is not even in my Top 10.” – Covers Expert Steve Merril
ABOUT MISSISSIPPI STATE (9-0 SU, 5-4 ATS, 5-4 O/U): The Bulldogs are pinning their hopes on star quarterback Dak Prescott, who averages 247.9 passing yards and 86.6 rushing yards and has racked up 18 TDs through the air and 11 on the ground. “I think his experience helps going into a hostile environment,” Mullen said. “He is going to walk on the field with confidence knowing that the situation is not going to be too big for him.” The defense gives up 311.1 passing yards per game (124th nationally), though the fact the Bulldogs never trailed in six of their nine games contributed to opponents racking up passing yards.
ABOUT ALABAMA (8-1 SU, 3-6 ATS, 4-5 O/U): The Crimson Tide once again boast one of the top defenses in the nation, ranking third in the country against the run (89.2 yards per game) and fourth in total defense (274.8), but they have a tough assignment this week. “The balance that they have is almost equal in terms of rushing yards and passing yards,” coach Nick Saban told reporters. “Those are the most difficult types of teams to defend, and I think that’s largely because of the quarterback. Dak Prescott is a very talented guy in a lot of ways.” Alabama’s offense also has been more balanced than in recent years and has put up some big numbers, but it was limited to 315 total yards — its second-lowest total of the season — at LSU.
*Bulldogs are 8-2 ATS vs. a team with a winning record.
*Crimson Tide are 3-7 ATS in their last 10 games following a ATS win.
*Home team is 4-0 ATS in their last 4 meetings.
*Under is 4-0 in Crimson Tide last 4 vs. a team with a winning record.
COVERS CONSENSUS: 64.88 percent of Covers users are backing Miss St. +10 while the total is split with 50.1 percent taking the under.