Mississippi State vs. Alabama Preview

#1 MISS. STATE MUST HOLD ON...#5 ALABAMA STILL TRYING TO CRASH FINAL FOUR PARTY

Shots were fired this week when the playoff selection committee told Alabama in no uncertain terms that luckily surviving an overtime game at LSU wasn’t going to be enough to keep them in the top four. TCU’s impressive win over Kansas State vaulted the Horned Frogs temporarily in the final spot in the championship brackets. “Hey ‘Bama, impress us” was very clearly the message from the committee.

And that chance to impress comes right away! This Saturday #5 Alabama will host #1 Mississippi State at 3:30 p.m. ET in a game that will be nationally televised by CBS. Certainly THAT would be enough wouldn’t it? A big win over the current holder of the top spot?

If Alabama flunks this test, they’re toast. No way a team that lost to both Mississippi schools and should have lost to LSU is going to get in as a two-loss team no matter what happens the rest of the way. If Alabama passes the test with flying colors in a blowout, suddenly it’s Mississippi State that has to sweat. They’d still probably be ahead of TCU as a one-loss team in a super-tough conference. But, the Egg Bowl with Ole Miss is still ahead, as would be the SEC Championship game.

We’ll save the possible future migraines for the selection committee. Let’s see what JIM HURLEY’S key indicator stats have to say about the best of the daytime kickoffs on Saturday. 

Won-Lost Records (Strength of Schedule)
Mississippi State: 9-0 (#45 schedule in USA Today)
Alabama: 8-1 (#3 schedule in USA Today)

Mississippi State is in a killer conference, but has played a very soft schedule otherwise. Alabama has faced the third toughest slate of anybody according to Jeff Sagarin of USA Today. And, that schedule strength is obviously about to rise! Plus, talented Auburn is still ahead. Great performances this year in context. There are going to be some really good SEC teams this year relegated to bowls they find disappointing.

Yards-Per-Play
Mississippi State: 7.0 on offense, 5.4 on defense
Alabama: 6.7 on offense, 4.3 on defense

Alabama has a pretty big edge here of +2.4 to +1.6. And, we know that the edge has come against a tougher schedule. The problem with relying too much on the numbers is that we’ve all seen that Alabama didn’t play to those averages in their biggest games. The inconsistent offense can really blow and go in the best of times. They weren’t going much of anywhere in the loss to Ole Miss and the near-loss in Baton Rouge last week. So, edge to ‘Bama...but don’t eliminate the eye test from consideration.

Turnover Differential
Mississippi State: even
Alabama: -2

Big surprise here...because Alabama usually has a safe, conservative offense exploiting the mistakes forced by its hyper-aggressive defense. Lane Kiffin has so many different ways he can mess things up! The visitors aren’t particularly impressive here either. So, you can’t give the category to the Bulldogs. Most important thing here has a historically dominant category for the Crimson Tide is no longer that way.

Market Performance
Mississippi State: 5-4 ATS
Alabama: 3-6 ATS (includes fortunate cover at LSU)

The line caught up with Mississippi State after their impressive run. So, they’re only a game over .500 right now in terms of money won for backers. Alabama has been a big disappointment even with week’s miracle cover. The market has consistently overrated them, and underplayed the possible negative impact of Kiffin.

Current Line: Alabama by 7

The market very clearly says Alabama is the better team. Home field advantage is usually worth about three points in big college games. Maybe it’s worth four points in Tuscaloosa with so much on the line. Clearly, the most important influences in the marketplace don’t see Mississippi State as the best team in the country! Alabama’s been priced that way, as they were last week at LSU. Is this still too high?

JIM HURLEY has been studying this game very closely because he knows his clients love to watch themselves in on TV. But, as we publish, it’s far from certain that Bulldogs/Tide will make the cut. There are great opportunities all over the card...and NETWORK clients only get the top releases!

BEST BETS can always be purchase right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions, call us in the office at 1-800-323-4453 during normal business hours.

Back with you tomorrow to cover the other big TV game here in the NOTEBOOK. That will be Florida State/Miami in prime time on ABC. Then it’s back to the NFL...and, very soon, some great college basketball!

Saturday: College Preview...Florida State at Miami in ABC
Sunday: NFL Preview...New England at Indianapolis on NBC
Monday: NFL Preview...Pittsburgh at Tennessee on ESPN
Tuesday: College Hoops Doubleheader...Michigan State/Duke and Kentucky/Kansas!

Wow...huge games in college and pro football...and then it’s like the Final Four in November with that opening salvo in college hoops!

Whatever the sport...whatever the handicapping challenge, you’re always going to get the best plays on the board from JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!

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