Thinking Upset

Alabama look to rebound from a devastating loss by avenging one from last season.

The Crimson Tide hope to hold on to their status as a Top 25 team Saturday when they visit SEC rival Mississippi State.

Oddsmakers from Bodog have made Alabama -5 point spread favorites (View College Football odds) for Saturday's game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 82% of bets for this game have been placed on Alabama -5 (View College Football bet percentages).

Alabama (6-3, 4-2) appeared to be on its way to defeating then-No. 3 LSU last Saturday, but allowed two late touchdowns - the second with 1:26 to play after a turnover at their own 4-yard line - and lost 41-34.

"I think the most important thing moving forward is that we learned from our experiences that we had in this game," Alabama coach Nick Saban said following his first game against his former team. "We can't be down or disappointed. We can't be 'hang-doggin'. We can't be wounded. We've got to get ready for the next game.

"It's confidence and belief in yourself."

The wound would go just as deep this week if the 21st-ranked Crimson Tide lose to Mississippi State (5-4, 2-3) for the second consecutive year. The Bulldogs had lost 23 straight SEC road games before winning 24-16 in Tuscaloosa on Nov. 4, 2006, sending Alabama into a four-game slide that included an Independence Bowl loss to Oklahoma State.

The Tide had won the previous five meetings with Mississippi State by a combined 137-45 margin, and had not lost at home to the Bulldogs since 1997.

"Oh, it's going to get us motivated," Alabama guard Justin Britt said. "We've thought about it all year. Mississippi State had a great team. They came in last year and played hard. We can't let that happen again this year."

Tide quarterback John Parker Wilson struggled in that game, completing 19 of 39 passes for 187 yards with two interceptions, and is coming off another uneven performance. The junior went 14-of-40 for 234 yards with three touchdowns and one interception against LSU.

In Alabama's previous game, Wilson was 32-for-46 for a career-high 363 yards and three TDs without an INT in a 41-17 win over Tennessee.

He could use some help from running back Terry Grant, who was held to 23 yards on 13 carries last weekend as the offense totaled only 20 net rushing yards after gaining 1,360 with 17 touchdowns in the previous eight contests. Grant has team highs of 720 rushing yards and seven TDs.

Defensively, the Crimson Tide have intercepted 10 passes in the last four games to tie Arkansas and Vanderbilt for the overall conference lead with 15. Rashad Johnson had one of the Tide's three interceptions against LSU, giving him five on the season, tying him with Vandy's D.J. Moore and the Razorbacks' Jerell Norton for most in the SEC.

The defense provided both touchdowns for Alabama in its last trip to Starkville, a 17-0 win on Nov. 5, 2005.

Mississippi State hopes it hasn't lost any momentum due to a bye week after winning 31-14 at then-No. 14 Kentucky on Oct. 27.

The Bulldogs have relied on the strong sophomore backfield combination of Anthony Dixon, the team leader with 885 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns, and backup Christian Ducre. The tandem combined for 194 rushing yards and two TDs against the Wildcats.

Dixon was outstanding against the Tide last season, rushing for 121 yards on 25 carries.

Wesley Carroll hopes he can continue being efficient after going 17-for-28 for 152 yards and two touchdowns against Kentucky. The freshman quarterback has completed 54.7 percent of his passes for 702 yards and four touchdowns.

Saban, meanwhile, said there was no resolution on five Alabama players suspended the past two games for violations involving receipt of textbooks.

"We're going to continue do what we've done, which is hope for the best and kind of prepare for the worst," he said. "That's all I can really say about it because nothing has been completed and it's not final."

by: Staff Writers - Email Us

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