MISSISSIPPI STATE BULLDOGS (7-0)
at ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE (7-0)
Kickoff: Saturday, 8:30 p.m. EDT
Line: Alabama -24, Total: 46.5
A pair of unbeaten SEC foes will lock horns Saturday night when No. 11 Mississippi State visits No.1 Alabama.
Alabama is 9-2 SU (5-6 ATS) in the past 11 meetings, including four straight wins by a combined score of 117 to 27. Last year was the closest of the four, a 24-7 Tide road win. Unbeaten Mississippi State leads the nation in turnover margin (+17) and is riding a three-game ATS win streak with 113 points (37.7 PPG) during this run. Alabama leads the nation in scoring defense (8.3 PPG) and total defense (196 YPG), while A.J. McCarron leads all FBS quarterbacks in passing efficiency (69% completions, 9.6 YPA, 16 TD, 0 INT).
Can the Tide cover this lofty spread against undefeated Mississippi State? For the answer, connect to The Platinum Sheet for all the StatFox Experts picks for every key college football game throughout the 2012 season.
McCarron has not thrown an interception in 239 straight passes, but the last time he was picked off was 2011 against Mississippi State, when he completed just 14-of-24 passes for 163 yards (6.8 YPA) with 0 TD. However, he didn't need to be great considering Alabama outrushed MSU that day 223 to 12. Eddie Lacy had 96 of those rushing yards on just 11 carries (8.7 YPC) with two touchdowns. Lacy has rushed for 570 yards (5.8 YPC) and 7 TD this season, and has started to help out the passing game too with eight receptions in his past three games (he had one catch in the first four contests). Speaking of receptions, freshman WR Amari Cooper is emerging into a star. In his four SEC games, he has 21 catches for 351 yards and five touchdowns. Alabama's defense has not allowed more than 80 rushing yards in a game this year, and Tennessee became the first team to throw for more than 200 yards against them last week with 203 passing yards. The Tide have also been able to force multiple turnovers in six of seven games this year, totaling 20 takeaways.
Mississippi State, which has won nine straight games (6-3 ATS), has enjoyed great offensive balance all season, rushing for 181 YPG and throwing for 236 YPG, but turning the ball over just five times in seven contests. QB Tyler Russell has tossed just one interception all season despite 203 throws. In three SEC games, he's passed for 261 YPG, 7 TD and 0 INT. Last week against Middle Tennessee, Russell went 17-of-21 for 191 yards and 3 TD. However, he threw for just 110 yards on 25 pass attempts (4.4 YPA) in the loss to Alabama last year. MSU has the conference's leading rusher in Ladarius Perkins (103 rush YPG), who has three straight 100-yard efforts and has scored at least once in all seven games in 2012. He's seen limited action in two career games versus the Tide, carrying the ball just 13 times for 54 yards (4.2 YPC). Defensively, the Bulldogs have allowed just 14.4 PPG (9th in nation) and 327 total YPG (26th in FBS), but they have not sustained a consistent pass rush with just 1.6 sacks per game and 5.1 Tackles For Loss per game, both which rank 12th in the SEC.