Alabama Mississippi State Preview
ALABAMA'S GAUNTLET CONTINUES WITH A TOUGH ROAD TEST IN LETDOWN SPOT AT STARKVILLE
Things could get stark for Alabama in Starkville very quickly if the Crimson Time can't maintain their recent intensity and high level of play Saturday afternoon against the Mississippi State Bulldogs. They already have one loss...and it might be a distant longshot for a two-loss team to reach the Final Four no matter how good they are on paper!
It's fairly accepted in the betting markets that Alabama is the best team in the country even with that one loss. They would be neutral field favorites over the undefeated teams (or pick-em with Ohio State in some oddsmaking circles). But, you have to "qualify" for the Final Four based on performance regardless of your talent level. Another flat performance here and Alabama may go on the short historical list of great teams who weren't allowed to play for a championship!
Will there be a hangover off the LSU victory. The good news for 'Bama fans is that the game wasn't particularly taxing. Alabama established dominance early and coasted to a win. It's not like that was an overtime brawl that's going to leave a mark. But, emotionally, can Alabama keep getting up week after week against the toughest schedule any contender in the country is playing? That's the question confronting handicappers this week.
Let's see what JIM HURLEY'S key indicators stats have to say a matchup that's looming very large over the championship discussion...
Alabama: 8-1 (5-1 in the SEC, with a home loss to Ole Miss)
Mississippi State: 7-2 (3-2 in the SEC, losing to LSU and Texas A&M)
At first glance...it seems pretty close. Mississippi State only has one fewer win through nine games. But, those losses to LSU and A&M are telling because 'Bama just dominated both of those teams at the point of attack. If State couldn't beat either of those teams, how are they going to beat 'Bama?
Alabama: 5.6 on offense, 4.2 on defense
Mississippi State: 6.6 on offense, 4.9 on defense
You have to make a mental adjustment to those stats for schedule strength. Jeff Sagarin of USA today is showing 'Bama playing a brutal slate that ranks #5 in the country. Mississippi State has had it relatively easy down at #54. Frankly, Alabama's +1.4 differential is amazing considering their gauntlet. A lot to respect, though about the home dog that does run up good stats. Note that State's defense is very good...and has a chance to really slow down a "flat" version of Alabama. This could be a low scoring nailbiter if both defenses show up.
2014 Turnover Differential
Mississippi State: +1
Those numbers are disappointing for quality teams. We're three-fourths of the way into the season now. Teams who have mastered the risk/reward challenge should be up closer to +7 or so. Alabama's offense takes too many downfield risks. These defenses are better at "containment" than swiping the ball.
2014 Market Performance
Alabama: 4-5 ATS
Mississippi State: 6-3 ATS
It's amazing that Alabama is still under break-even considering how many great performances they've had on TV. You watched them crush Georgia, handle Texas A&M, emasculate LSU...yet the team is still 4-5 ATS! That proves they're can lose focus from time to time. Mississippi State has been underrated by the marketplace...cashing two thirds of their tickets.
Alabama: Jake Coker (161-248-7-1807 with 11 TDs)
Mississippi State: Dak Prescott (200-300-1-2351 with 19 TDs)
If you just skimmed through those numbers, you might not have noticed that Prescott has a 19-1 TD/Interception ratio! Wow...Alabama's greatness against the run (which mattered so much last week) may not be important here if Prescott is able to get some things done while continuing to avoid interceptions. That's arguably the key to the cover. If Prescott doesn't throw any picks...this is going to be a ball game. If he stumbles into trouble against the best opponent he's faced this season...then it's just another Alabama TV win. Coker's 11-7 ratio continues to be disappointing...and a potential issue in the postseason against elite opposition.
Current Line: Alabama by 8, total of 52
Big number considering the site. Alabama would be about -11 on a neutral field, and at least -14 if the game were being played in Tuscaloosa. That's A LOT of respect, and not much anticipation for a letdown. Handicappers expecting a letdown are getting great value. Is that a reasonable expectation? Your call to make. Or, JIM HURLEY's call to make!
The full NETWORK team has been working around the clock to find this week's best football plays for clients. If Alabama/Mississippi State makes the grade...it will show up as a major release or part of a TV parlay. If not, there are plenty of other great options from the busy schedule.
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Big NFL game coming up in our next report matching a pair of NFC championship contenders off a bye week...bookending a stretch that will end with the game of the year in the Big 10...
Sunday: NFL TV Preview... Arizona at Seattle
Monday: NFL TV Preview... Houston at Cincinnati
Midweek: NFL TV Preview...Tennessee at Jacksonville
Friday-Saturday: College Football TV Preview...Michigan State at Ohio State
Keep reading the NOTEBOOK for helpful handicapping information. Then, hook up with JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK for BIG, JUICY WINNERS!
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