Mississippi State at Alabama Betting Odds & Pick: Back the Bulldogs to Cover Spread
UA Athletics/Collegiate Images/Getty Images. Pictured: Najee Harris (22).
- The Alabama Crimson Tide draw a Week 9 home matchup against head coach Mike Leach and the Mississippi State Bulldogs.
- On the surface, Alabama seems like the kind of freight train you want to stay clear of, but are the 'Dogs worth a look?
- Ace DeCardano makes the case for taking the points with Mississippi State, but don't expect the first half to be pretty.
Mississippi State at Alabama Odds
|Mississippi State Odds||+30 [BET NOW]|
|Alabama Odds||-30 [BET NOW]|
|Moneyline||N/A [BET NOW]|
|Over/Under||63.5 [BET NOW]|
|Time||Saturday, 7 p.m. ET|
On the surface, Mississippi State and Alabama seem like two teams going in opposite directions: Alabama has rolled through the opposition, scoring an average of 48.4 points per game. On the flip side, Mike Leach’s offense at Mississippi State has been sputtering, and a new player has seemingly left the program every day this week.
The Bulldogs are catching a whole lot of points, though. So should you take them? Let’s take a closer look.
Mississippi State Bulldogs
After making the decision to engage in the SEC battles, the smartest thing Leach did was bring San Diego State defensive coordinator Zach Arnett to Starkville. Arnett’s 3-3-5 system smothered the Mountain West last season, as it allowed only 13.8 points per game and 4.6 yards per play.
I know some of you are reading this thinking, “Son, this ain’t the Mountain West.”
This is most certainly true. However, the defensive success has followed Arnett to StarkVegas: The Mississippi State defense is putting up solid numbers despite the lack of success for the up-tempo offense since Week 1.
The Bulldogs are allowing only 2.9 yards per rush attempt, which ranks eighth-best in FBS when discounting teams that have played only one game. Using the same criteria, they’re also eighth in yards per game allowed (295.5).
Since opening day’s 44-34 win over the guys wearing LSU uniforms, Leach’s offense has been going in the wrong direction. It gained 400, 295 and 217 yards over its next three games.
These numbers, along with Leach’s abrasive nature, has caused six more players to leave the program this week, most notably senior running back Kylin Hill.
At his weekly press conference, Leach dismissed the departures as par for the course. Earlier this month, he alluded to a purge of malcontents being good for the team as a whole. Most importantly to our handicap, Leach — not one to ever mince words — really liked what he saw in practice this week.
From the outside, it doesn’t seem like a mutiny is taking place on the pirate ship. Leach’s big personality simply doesn’t mesh with everyone.
Alabama Crimson Tide
Nick Saban summoned his inner Bud Kilmer this week when speaking about superstar wide receiver Jaylen Waddle’s injury: “Not supposed to bring a ball out when he’s that deep in the end zone.”
On the field, the Crimson Tide are going to miss Waddle’s game-breaking abilities. DeVonta Smith is a tough, talented receiver who is going to outwork defensive backs and move the sticks. However, he doesn’t have the explosiveness of the 2019 starting receiving corps.
As we know, though, Alabama doesn’t rebuild. It simply reloads. Sophomore wide receiver and breakout star John Metchie will be counted on to be the deep threat, and sophomore Slade Bolden is presumably the next man up.
However, look for Saban’s game plan to lean heavily on Smith and running back Najee Harris to begin the Tide’s first game post-Waddle. This should result in longer, sustained drives and not as much on one-play strikes that tend to help cover a 31.5-point spread.
When covering such a big number, one also needs to shut down its opponent. But over the years, Alabama has (surprisingly) had mixed success defending wide-open offenses.
It did shut out Hugh Freeze’s brash Ole Miss squad in 2013. However, those same Rebels put up 43 points in Bryant-Denny Stadium just two seasons later. More recently, Lane Kiffin’s squad nearly hung a 50-burger on October 10.
Saban has never seen Leach’s Air Raid up close and personal. Would anyone be surprised if it gets into the 20s?
Betting Analysis & Pick
The Bulldogs’ offense has really stumbled recently in SEC play. However, they have averaged 357.5 passing yards per game while the Crimson Tide has given up 279.8 yards per game through the air. Also, the histories of both coaches point toward Leach’s style being able to put some points on the board on Saturday.
You’re always nervous standing in front of the Alabama freight train, but 31.5 is a lot of lumber to lay when one of the best defenses in college football combines with the Air Raid.
If all else fails, a two-touchdown backdoor cover is not out of the realm of possibility. We know that Mississippi State is going to keep chucking it until the clock hits zero. Additionally, there’s a reason why “Alabama 1H” became the trendiest pick in all of sports a few years ago: Saban is not against getting the (uber-talented) backups work when a game turns lopsided.
What this handicap needs is … MORE COWBELL. I’m taking Mississippi State.
Pick: Mississippi State +31.5 (down to 30)