College football has reached Week 11 and the SEC Wizard is back to give you betting picks and tips!
Alabama-Mississippi State in Starkville represents a rare top 25 matchup in this series, and that may not bode well for coach Dan Mullen (more on that later).
College football betting picks, Alabama-Mississippi State
Alabama (9-0) boasts a 30-game regular-season winning streak. But after watching its best defensive players drop like flies last week in a less-than-inspiring win against LSU, the Tide look vulnerable.
Mississippi State (7-2) wants to prove it can compete with, and even beat, the SEC’s best. The Bulldogs have dominated lesser competition, but don’t seem built to take out top-10 programs.
How Alabama can win: Turn this into a repeat of the season opener against Florida State. Nick Fitzgerald and Mississippi State’s receivers cannot complete passes downfield against the Tide defense. So Bama can crowd the line of scrimmage, force third-and-long, get the ball back to its offense early and often and win by strangulation. Despite all the injuries, this is a great matchup for Alabama’s defense, and if the Tide can suffocate Fitzgerald on the ground, it won’t take many points to reach 10-0.
How Mississippi State can win: Win at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. That’s a scary ask, but the Bulldogs feature very good offensive and defensive lines. And with so many injuries to Bama’s defense (including 4 linebackers out for the year), Mississippi State has to hope it can run the ball, string together long drives and create third-and-short situations. Score in the low 20s, avoid giving up big, explosive plays downfield and perhaps the crowd in Starkville can witness a historic win.
Here are a few additional nuggets:
- Nick Saban is 8-0 against Dan Mullen and Mississippi State, winning by a combined score of 250-63. The Bulldogs have never led Alabama under Mullen.
- Mullen’s teams have scored more than 10 points just once against Saban, in a 25-20 loss to the Tide in Tuscaloosa. Mississippi State, led by Dak Prescott, scored a garbage-time touchdown with 15 seconds left in that game. The next-closest game? A 13-point Bama win in ’13.
ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE
Since the season opener against Florida State, the Tide have been favored by at least 20 points in every game. The fact that the team is +26.5 against the spread on the year is pretty impressive.
An interesting note: Alabama has not won back-to-back games against the spread all year, and lost back-to-back games just once (at Texas A&M, vs. Arkansas). The Tide failed to cover the spread vs. LSU last week.
Alabama has played the weakest schedule in the SEC this year, despite facing LSU last week. Florida State became a terrible team. Bama has yet to face Georgia, Auburn or Mississippi State. And the Tide doesn’t play itself. We’ll find out a lot about this team in the next 3 weeks.
- LB Shaun Dion Hamilton (knee) and LB Mack Wilson (foot) suffered what are likely to be season-ending injuries vs. LSU last week. LB Christian Miller (biceps) and LB Terrell Lewis (elbow) saw injuries end their seasons Week 1 vs. Florida State. Alabama is thin at the position, and will rely on players like 5-star freshman Dylan Moses.
- OLBs Anfernee Jennings and Jamie Mosley also were limited early this week, but are expected to play.
- DB Minkah Fitzpatrick (hamstring) went down twice vs. LSU, only to argue his way back into the game. Fitzpatrick has practiced this week and appears poised to play against Mississippi State. But it’s fair to wonder whether Alabama’s best defensive player will be 100 percent.
- DL Da’Shawn Hand (knee) missed time earlier this year and appeared to re-aggravate the injury against LSU. He’s considered likely to play Saturday, but may not be fully healthy.
- LT Jonah Williams (undisclosed) was limited in practice early this week for what has been described as “precautionary” reasons. Williams is the best pass blocker on this offensive line.
The week after a huge game against LSU, normally this would be a let-down spot for Alabama. But this 2017 Alabama team tends to play its best after mediocre outings. After a 41-23 win against Colorado State, the Tide annihilated Vanderbilt, 59-0, and Ole Miss, 66-3. After surviving Texas A&M, 27-19, Bama trounced Arkansas, 41-9, and Tennessee, 45-7. Mississippi State is next in this ledger after a mediocre game in Week 10.
And a road game against a ranked SEC team will have the full attention of these players and the coaching staff.
|Nick Saban||11th||128-19||74-12||5 national championships, 7 SEC championships, 4x SEC Coach of the Year|
He’s the best coach in college football and the best program-builder, maybe ever. We’ll see that on full display this week at linebacker, where Alabama has lost 4 players for the season due to injury. Not to worry, as the Tide will roll out a swarm of 5-star backups.
Saban squashes run-first, defense-first opponents like bugs. Running quarterbacks sometimes have success against Bama. But Saban holds a distinct coaching advantage here.
Hurts has protected the football very well this season. He’s also rushed for 616 yards and 7 TDs on 6.3 yards per carry. He’s generally making great decisions.
Hurts still can’t complete passes downfield. Backup Tua Tagovailoa is a much better downfield passer. But that’s just fine against this Mississippi State team, as Alabama will want to play keep-away from a Bulldogs offense that likes to wear you down in the second half.
MISSISSIPPI STATE BULLDOGS
“Over” betters haven’t collected on Mississippi State games since Week 5. That makes sense, considering the Bulldogs average 46.7 carries per game and feature a stout defense.
Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham deserves heaps of credit for turning around what was a poor defense in 2016, and should be considered one of the most effective coordinator hires in the country last offseason. But the one-dimensional offense that relies on efficiency, long drives and wearing down opponents managed a combined 13 points against Auburn and Georgia. Alabama fields a similar defense. That could be trouble Saturday.
- WR Keith Mixon (ankle) is listed as probable. WRs Donald Gray (groin) and Gabe Myles (foot) are questionable. With WR Malik Dear (knee) out for the year, and the rest of an average receiving corps limping, this group isn’t poised to give Fitzgerald much help vs. the Alabama secondary.
- S Johnathan Abram will miss the first half due to a targeting ejection vs. UMass. That’s a huge loss for the defense.
- LB Gerri Green (ankle) should play against Alabama, but it’s unclear if he’ll be 100 percent healthy.
Mississippi State just played UMass, and actually trailed at halftime. The Bulldogs offense scored just 20 points and gave up 7 to the Minutemen defense. Perhaps Mississippi State was looking ahead to Alabama. That won’t be the case this week with a game at Arkansas on deck.
|Dan Mullen||9th||68-44||32-37||SEC Coach of the Year in 2014 (AP)|
Considered by many to be the second-best coach in the SEC, Mullen’s biggest black eye has come against ranked teams. He’s 6-33 overall, and just 2-15 in ranked vs. ranked games.
Give Saban and Alabama a coaching advantage in this one.
Fitzgerald is a gem of a runner. He’s rushed for 2,303 yards on 6.9 yards per carry for 31 TDs in his career, and has an excellent chance at back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons.
As a passer? He’s thrown 20 interceptions and counting the last 2 seasons combined. This year he’s completing just 19.4 percent of his passes of at least 20 yards downfield.
THE WIZARD’S PREDICTION
Bet: Alabama -13.5, under 51
Score: Alabama 31, Mississippi State 13
Nick Fitzgerald, a good offensive line and a deep backfield will help Mississippi State occasionally succeed against a wounded Bama defense. But the Bulldogs won’t be able to convert third-and-long, leaving a minuscule margin for error on offense. Expect Alabama to dominate field position, intercept a few passes and squeeze the life out of the cowbell-toting crowd in the second half.
I also love the under here, and made the total 44 when I handicapped the game. That’s a touchdown less than the Thursday night number on MyBookie.