Saturday, Nick Saban will lead Alabama into Starkville, Miss., in hopes of winning a 16th straight game over Mississippi State. This will be the 76th consecutive season that Alabama and Mississippi State have faced each other, but the streak will be broken next year because of the move to an SEC without divisions.
Here are a few things to watch for this Saturday night as the Tide travel to Mississippi State.
Jalen Milroe will look to carry his momentum from the second half of last week's game into Saturday's matchup. Milroe has a long way to go with reading defenses and making good decisions with the football, but last week was a step in the right direction. Despite a few bad decisions, Milroe has emerged as one of the best deep-ball passers in the country. This is bad news for a Mississippi State secondary that has struggled against the long pass all season long.
True freshman Kadyn Proctor has been the starting left tackle all season but was replaced by Elijah Pritchett in the second quarter last week. Proctor has the potential of an NFL first-round draft pick but has not quite adjusted to the college level just yet. Proctor did return after halftime to left tackle, but it appears that Pritchett has closed the gap and created a position battle. It will be interesting to see how the playing time is split and, if Proctor gets the start, how short of a leash he will have.
Mississippi State Offense
Which offense will we see from Mississippi State on Saturday? Quarterback Will Rogers was built for the air raid system that the Bulldogs ran last year, but under new coach Zach Arnett, the offense has changed a bit. Through the first three games of the season, Rogers was averaging just 25 passing attempts. Last week against South Carolina, Rogers looked more like the Rogers of last season, with 48 pass attempts and 487 passing yards. If Mississippi State wants to have a chance at the upset, Rogers will need a performance more like last week.
All season long, the Alabama defense has done its part in playing winning football. The Crimson Tide are allowing just 13.5 points per game and recorded 13 sacks on the season. Alabama's defense is starting to click on all cylinders, finally getting the pass rush that was expected coming into the season. Defensive backs Kool-Aid McKinstry and Terrion Arnold have been shutdown corners, and you could argue are the best tandem in the SEC - maybe even the nation.
Jermaine Burton and Isaiah Bond are clearly Alabama's top receivers, but Jalen Hale is making his case as the Crimson Tide's third option. The true freshman Hale led Alabama in receiving last week with 63 yards, including a 33-yard touchdown. While Hale only saw 19 snaps last week, he could build off a great performance last week and increase his playing time. If given the opportunity, a weak Mississippi State secondary could be the perfect spot for Hale to have a breakout performance.
Alabama will play their first SEC road game of the season Saturday in Starkville against Mississippi State at 8:00 p.m. on ESPN.
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