Three Things You Need to Know about Mississippi State
Following a three-game home stand, the Alabama Crimson Tide (9-0, 6-0 SEC) makes the short jog over to Starkville to battle the Mississippi State Bulldogs (7-2, 3-2 SEC).
The Crimson Tide has a nine-game winning streak over the Bulldogs and leads the overall series 80-18-3.
Last season, Alabama dismantled Mississippi State 51-3 at Bryant Denny Stadium and looks to win their fifth straight game in Starkville.
Mississippi State started out the season 3-0, lost their next two but have reeled off four wins in a row and have already exceeded last year’s win total of six games.
Prior to Saturday’s 6 PM kickoff, find out the three things you need to know about Mississippi State.
Dramatically Improved Defense
While the offense caters to the running and passing ability of quarterback Nick Fitzgerald, the reason that Mississippi State is 7-2 coming into this weekend is their improved play on defense.
Under first year defensive coordinator Todd Grantham, the Bulldogs have transformed from one of college football’s worst defenses to one of the most underrated defenses in the country.
In 2016, Mississippi State ranked 110th in the FBS in total defense (459.1 yards per game), 120th in pass defense (281.5 yards per game), 70th in rushing defense (177.5 yards per game) and 93rd in scoring defense (31.4 points per game).
This season, they are seventh in the country in total defense (289.3 yards per game), eighth in pass defense (165.2 yards per game), 23rd in rushing defense (124.1 yards per game) and 14th in scoring defense (18 points per game).
With an increased emphasis on fast, aggressive play, Grantham’s defense leads the SEC with four defensive touchdowns (three interception returns and one fumble return).
Besides the big play ability of Nick Fitzgerald, the Mississippi State offense line has done an outstanding job of protecting Nick Fitzgerald
The Bulldogs have allowed the third fewest sacks in the FBS with just five sacks allowed. Only Army and Marshall have given up fewer sacks.
In addition to outstanding pass protection, the line has opened the running lanes for Fitzgerald and running back Aeris Williams as the team is 11th nationally with 259.3 rushing yards per game.
Be Careful on Special Teams
Special teams is an area that Mississippi State has excelled at over the last few seasons.
Since 2014, the Bulldogs lead the conference and are third nationally with 14 blocked kicks and punts. Since Dan Mullen’s arrival in Starkville, Mississippi State has blocked 25 punts or kicks.
This season, Jeffery Simmons blocked a PAT and a punt against Louisiana Tech in the squad’s 57-21 win in Ruston, Louisiana.