Alabama has piled up more than 500 yards in nine straight games. Tua Tagovailoa very well could win the Heisman Trophy. But what impresses me so much about the Crimson Tide is their defense. Every year, it seems, during the Nick Saban era the Tide seem to have multiple defensive players taken high in the NFL draft. Right now I project five Alabama defensive players to go in the first round this spring.
Opponents are averaging just 14.1 points versus Alabama and 295.4 yards. Mississippi State is going to have problems denting this level of defense. Bulldogs quarterback Nick Fitzgerald has experience, moxie and can be a dual threat. I don't consider him an accurate passer, though, and he's not an elite quarterback. The Bulldogs did nothing offensively in their three losses this season falling to Kentucky 28-7, Florida 13-6 and LSU 19-3. That's an average of 5.3 points in those defeats.
The Crimson Tide lead the nation in scoring averaging 51.3 points per game. There is some padding in that number, though. Alabama scored 51 or more points against Louisville, Arkansas State and Lafayette. Mississippi State is the best defensive team the Tide have faced.
Alabama scored 29 points against LSU last week. LSU ranks 40th in yards allowed. Mississippi State gives up the sixth-fewest yards in the nation and third-fewest points at 12.3. Tagovailoa is dealing with a sore knee that he aggravated against LSU. Najee Harris, the Tide's leading rusher, is dealing with an ankle injury and Henry Ruggs III, probably Alabama's second-best wide receiver, has a leg injury. All three are expected to play, but could be at less than 100 percent.
Note, too, that both teams play well below average in terms of pace ranking among the bottom 35 in that category. A slow pace certainly is a plus for the Under.
(Editor's note: Stephen Nover is one of the hottest college football handicappers in the country. Since September, Stephen is 40-21 on his premium/free CFB plays going into Friday for 66 percent! Stephen has five premium Saturday plays in addition to this free selection, headed by his Triple Star Atlantic Coast Conference Game of the Year.)