This week’s game: No. 13 MSU (7-0, 3-0 SEC) at No. 1 Alabama (7-0, 4-0), Saturday, 7:30 p.m., ESPN
Alabama week has begun.
And so begins the five-game closing stretch that will give us a greater measure of this MSU team. The Bulldogs are done with non-conference play, having handled Middle Tennessee State on Saturday, 45-3. Here’s my rewind. And here is a story to set the table for this huge week.
I’ll have updates from Dan Mullen‘s 1 p.m. press conference today. Until then, let’s take a look at the No. 1 team in the land.
• Last meeting: Alabama, 24-7 (Nov. 12, 2011, in Starkville)
• Series: Alabama leads 75-18-3
• Alabama on the web: rolltide.com
• Alabama coach: Nick Saban (62-12, sixth year)
• Three Alabama players to watch: QB A.J. McCarron, LB C.J. Mosley, CB Dee Milliner
• Premature review: In our Premature Preview of Alabama, we looked at McCarron and his play. The junior has been nearly flawless this year, and just one look at his numbers tells you that: 89 of 132 (67.4 percent), 1,170 yards, 12 touchdowns, zero interceptions. He’s not putting up eye-popping raw numbers – although that TD-to-INT ratio is awfully impressive – but McCarron is deadly efficient. His pass efficiency rating of 183.63 ranks first in the country.
He runs an offense chock full of talent, starting with running backs Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon, who have combined for 927 yards and 11 touchdowns. The defense is stacked, too, and in fact is statistically the best defense in the country. Let’s check where Bama ranks in certain defensive categories.
• Total defense: 1st (195.6 ypg)
• Rushing defense: 1st (58.7 ypg)
• Pass efficiency defense: 1st (83.11 rating)
• Pass defense: 2nd (136.9 ypg)
• Scoring defense: 1st (8.3 ppg)
Some people question the schedule Alabama has played thus far, so let’s do a comparison with MSU’s schedule. According to the Sagarin ratings, Alabama’s rank of schedule is 26th in the country; MSU’s is 119th.
• Opponents’ combined record: Alabama 24-25; MSU 19-32
• Non-SEC opponents’ combined record: Alabama 11-10; MSU 14-15
• SEC opponents’ combined record (overall, SEC): Alabama 13-15, 3-12; MSU 5-17, 0-14
Alabama has played one more SEC game than MSU, and it played a non-conference game against a BCS school (Michigan, 41-14 win). Bama’s average margin of victory: 32.7 points. MSU’s average margin of victory: 22.3 points.
All of these numbers could help explain why the Tide opened as a 24-point favorite (the line is now at 23.5 points).