Stat Check: Comparing MSU and Alabama

Next game: at No. 11 Alabama (7-2, 4-2 SEC), Saturday, 6:15 p.m., ESPN2 (Mark Jones and Bob Davie)

This is something I ought to do for every SEC game, but I haven’t. Because stat-crunching, to me, is fun. Which makes me wonder why I don’t play fantasy sports. (Actually, I know why, and it’s largely due to my contrarian nature; plus, I don’t have time.)

Anyway, let’s break this down and see who’s better at what, and we’ll total it all up at the end and draw some sort of semi-informed conclusion about which team is better. (SEC rank in parentheses.)

Scoring offense: Alabama 32.8 ppg (5th), MSU 28.1 ppg (9th)

Scoring defense: Alabama 13.8 ppg (1st), MSU 17.0 ppg (3rd)

Total offense: Alabama 427.9 ypg (3rd), MSU 383.2 ypg (8th)

Total defense: Alabama 307.1 ypg (4th), MSU 336.8 ypg (6th)

Rushing offense: Alabama 177.4 ypg (5th), MSU 218.7 ypg (3rd)

Rushing defense: Alabama 125.8 ypg (7th), MSU 115.2 ypg (4th)

Passing offense: Alabama 250.4 ypg (3rd), MSU 164.6 ypg (10th)

Passing defense: Alabama 181.3 ypg (5th), MSU 221.6 ypg (7th)

Passing efficiency offense: Alabama 161.3 rating (3rd), MSU 129.0 rating (9th)

Passing efficiency defense: Alabama 100.1 rating (1st), MSU 116.0 rating (5th)

Sacks by: Alabama 11 (12th), MSU 19 (T-7th)

Sacks against: Alabama 25 (11th), MSU 10 (2nd)

Turnover margin: Alabama plus-7 (T-1st), MSU plus-7 (T-1st)

Red zone offense: Alabama 84.2% (6th), MSU 76.5% (T-9th)

Red zone defense: Alabama 68.0% (1st), MSU 74.1% (3rd)

Third down conversions: Alabama 46.2% (4th), MSU 46.4% (3rd)

Opponent third down conversions: Alabama 32.8% (2nd), MSU 37.8% (T-4th)

Time of possession: Alabama 30:43/game (3rd), MSU 30:30/game (4th)

Penalties: Alabama 42.4 ypg (5th), MSU 48.1 ypg (8th)

Opponent penalties: Alabama 46.8 ypg (7th), MSU 51.0 (2nd)

Kickoff returns: Alabama 25.9 yards (2nd), MSU 23.0 yards (5th)

Kickoff coverage: Alabama 45.0 yards (3rd), MSU 42.3 yards (T-11th)

Net punting: Alabama 37.2 yards (8th), MSU 38.9 yards (3rd)

OK, I’ve got Alabama with the edge in 15 categories, MSU in seven categories, and one tie. Where MSU does trail, it’s not usually by much. That, to me, means we have a fairly tight matchup this weekend.

And let’s look at where State comes out on top: rushing offense, rushing defense, sacks by, sacks against, third down conversions, opponent penalties and net punting. Then you throw in the turnover margin. Doing well in all those categories can mitigate a lot of other things.

It’s not too big a gap for the Bulldogs to overcome. But we’ll hold off on predictions until Thursday.