'Bama-Miss St Preview
Starkville, MS - Alabama has already clinched a spot in the SEC title game, but there's still a lot at stake over the final weeks of the regular season.
The third-ranked Crimson Tide look to stay on track toward reaching their goal of playing in the BCS title game in southern California when they visit Mississippi State on Saturday.
Oddsmakers from online sports book SBGGLOBAL.com have made Alabama –12.5 point spread favorites (View College Football odds) for Saturday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 65% of bets for this game have been placed on Alabama –12.5 (View College Football bet percentages).
Alabama (9-0, 6-0) secured a second straight SEC West title after a 24-15 victory over LSU last Saturday. The Tide will face top-ranked Florida in the conference championship on Dec. 5 in Atlanta with the results having possible implications on the national title game.
"That was the goal we had," tailback and potential Heisman Trophy candidate Mark Ingram said of winning the West. "Hopefully we'll get to Pasadena as well."
Alabama has put itself in good position heading down the stretch. While the Tide didn't move up in the AP poll following their latest win, they jumped past Texas to No. 2 in the latest BCS poll.
With hype already building toward his team's matchup with Florida, coach Nick Saban is trying to keep his team focused on the three remaining regular season games, even though the Tide will likely be big favorites.
After visiting Mississippi State (4-5, 2-3), Alabama takes on Chattanooga, a Football Championship Subdivision team, then visits longtime rival Auburn - 3-3 in conference play - in the annual Iron Bowl.
"When you have success, the next opportunity you can lose that and you've got to be smart enough to know what it takes to continue to try and improve and perform well," Saban said. "Remember this, the other guys that we're playing, they've got scholarships too, and ... they are pretty good."
No matter how good the opponent, Saban's defense is hard to compete against.
The Tide are fourth in the nation in yards allowed per game (242.2) and sixth in scoring defense (11.8). They held the ninth-ranked Tigers to 253 yards of offense and outscored them 14-0 in the fourth quarter to rally from a 15-10 deficit. Alabama also tallied another three sacks to give them a conference-leading 25 for the season.
While the performance by Alabama's defense was typical, Saban was especially pleased with the effort on offense. Alabama finished with 452 yards - its most in six games. Quarterback Greg McElroy threw for 276 yards and two touchdowns while Ingram rushed for 144 yards on 22 carries.
"I thought Greg did a good job. We had great balance in the game," Saban said. "We were able to run the ball, but also throw it and make some explosive plays."
McElroy hadn't thrown a touchdown in his previous three games, averaging 119.7 yards in those contests.
While McElroy is coming off one of his best performances of the year, Alabama and Mississippi State have relied primarily on the run this season thanks to two of the conference's best backs. Ingram is the SEC's leading rusher at 127.6 yards per game, while Anthony Dixon is second with 125.1. Dixon is tied for with Florida's Tim Tebow for the conference lead with nine rushing touchdowns, one more than Ingram.
Dixon rushed for a school-record 252 yards and two touchdowns in the Bulldogs' 31-24 victory over Kentucky on Oct. 31. He has six touchdowns in the last four games, but figures to have a much tougher time putting up yards against an Alabama defense that allows just 68.2 yards per game on the ground.
Mississippi State is coming off a bye following its win over the Wildcats. The Bulldogs had a season-high 493 yards of offense in their last game, including 348 rushing.
Saturday is the fourth game this season against a ranked opponent for Mississippi State, which has remained competitive despite losing the previous three. The Bulldogs fell to Florida 29-19 on Oct. 24 in a game that was tied in the fourth quarter.
Alabama needs no reminder of how tough Mississippi State can be. The Tide beat the Bulldogs 32-7 last year after two straight losses to them. In the last meeting at Starkville in 2007, Alabama managed four field goals in a 17-12 loss.
"We've just got to keep pushing," linebacker Rolando McClain said. "Even though we've clinched the West, we've still got a lot to prove. I think it's still stuck in our mind when we lost to (Mississippi State) two years ago."
Posted: 11/11/09 12:30PM ET