Photo courtesy of Kelly Donoho/MSU Athletics
We’ve reached week 11 of the college football season. Mississippi State faces their toughest test of the season, Ole Miss tries to bounce back after last week’s tough loss, and Southern Miss faces one of the best teams in C-USA. Check out a preview off all three games below:
#16 Mississippi State @ #1 Alabama
The Bulldogs came close to knocking off Alabama last season. Tomorrow, they’ll get there chance once again.
Mississippi State has won two straight and they’ve moved up to #16 in the latest polls, but they’ll now travel to Tuscaloosa to take on the #1 Alabama Crimson Tide. The Bulldogs are on a two-game winning steak following their loss to LSU, and a big reason why is the improvement coming from the QB. After throwing 4 INTs in Baton Rouge, Nick Fitzgerald has accounted for accounted for 8 touchdowns without a turnover.
Last week’s win was a blowout against Louisiana Tech, but Fitzgerald’s decision making was solid. In the win over Texas A&M, the senior made clutch plays and played with the emotion that MSU fans had been waiting to see this year. Facing Alabama is obviously a different animal, and now it’s time for him to show he can do it against the team that head coach Joe Moorhead has called the “gold standard.”
This offense has relied heavily on their running game this season, and Kylin Hill being healthy is a major boost for the MSU offense this week. Yards may be hard to come in this game, as both defenses are highly regarded as two of the best in the country. Neither is allowing more than 300 yards per game, and even in their last two losses, MSU has only given up 13 and 19 points.
The Bulldogs have not seen a QB with the talent level of Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa, and Moorhead knows that the the stop the Tide, you have to stop Tua.
“Great players like [Tagovailoa], I call them game wreckers, because they can take the games over by themselves, I don’t know that it is ever necessarily a matter of stopping them, as it is neutralizing them or containing them. That is our hope with him. That is why I am a proponent of the dual-threat quarterback. He is a guy that can drop back, stay in the pocket, make his progressions and his reads, then push the ball down the field. At the same time, he can beat you with his feet on designed runs, or some of the big things you watch is when the play breaks down and he scrambles out of the pocket, then you see Ruggs or Jeudy flush out and make a play. He is a guy that certainly merits a ton of attention, and I know Coach Shoop and his staff are going to do a great job of putting a plan together,” Moorhead said.
While everyone knows Montez Sweat and Jeffrey Simmons will do their part on the D-line, it’s the defensive backfield that will have to step up this week.
Kick off from Tuscaloosa is set for 2:30 p.m.
Ole Miss @ Texas A&M
Ole Miss QB Jordan Ta’amu has been limited in practice this week with a foot injury, but all indications are that he’ll be ready when the Rebels step on the field in College Station tomorrow against Texas A&M. The Rebels are coming off a tough loss to South Carolina and currently sit a 1-4 in the SEC and 5-4 overall. It remains to be seen if the Rebels have any fight left in them after another lost season without a chance at a bowl game.
Head Coach Matt Luke said that the team has been preparing the same way the whole season, and even after a heartbreaking loss, he knows they’ll be ready to go.
“When you go out there and leave it all on the field, it’s supposed to hurt,” Luke said. “This is a business where you’re judged on winning and losing, and for us to go out there and win, the effort and the passion was there. Now it’s the attention to detail that gets us over the hump. I think those guys understand that.”
On the field, A&M boasts one of the toughest rushing defenses in the conference. This means that the Rebels will have to find creative ways to stick with the running game. They cannot allow the offense to be one-dimensional as it has been in losses this season. Also, the Rebels had just 18 yards in the 4th quarter last week as they watched their lead slip away. They have to stay aggressive, even with a lead, to make sure that doesn’t happen again.
The same problems have persisted on defense all season long, so will this be the week that the unit shows improvement? We’ll see. Missed tackles and blown coverages have plagued the Rebel defense, and the numbers reflect that. They are giving up 546 ypg, and they’re ranked 124th in the country. Against A&M, their best bet is to force QB Kellen Mond into obvious passing situations, but to do that they’ll have to stop the run first.
A&M has lost two straight games with losses to MSU and Auburn. Their early season losses came to Clemson and Alabama, so while they have 4 losses on the year, their schedule hasn’t been kind. The Rebels will get an angry Aggie team that’s looking to get back in the win column.
Kick off is set for 11:00 a.m.
Southern Miss @ UAB
Southern Miss will take on UAB tomorrow, and it remains to be seen who will get the start at QB.
Tate Whatley got the start last week with Jack Abraham injured, and head coach Jay Hopson hasn’t committed to either one yet this week.
“Tate came in and did a good job. He’s a multi-talented kid that can do it with his arm or his legs and he certainly made some opportunities for us. He moved the chains and kept drives alive. We’ll see how it plays out this week. I really don’t know, I can’t tell you exactly what direction we’re going with who is starting, but we’ll see how the week plays out. The good thing is that we have two other quarterbacks and they’re both healthy structurally so we’ll let them go,” he said.
Whoever does get the start, will face a UAB defense that’s only allowing 12 points per game, which the lowest in the country. USM’s defense has played well as of late as well, and last week, they forced 5 turnovers in their win over Marshall.
UAB is 8-1 and if they walk away with a win on Saturday, they’ll clinch the Western Division of C-USA. While USM has QB worries, UAB has some as well. Senior AJ Erdley is also banged up and Tyler Johnston III played well in last week’s win. USM will have to wait and see who takes the field for the Blazers tomorrow night.
“They are a team that run it but they’ve got two good quarterbacks so you have to be ready,” Hopson said. “You’ve got to stop all phases of the game defensively and that’s our challenge. They run the ball well. Statistically they are one of the better running teams in the country.”
Kick off is set for 6:30 at UAB.