Last Saturday, the #5 Alabama Crimson Tide (8-1) received their first regular-season loss since Auburn in 2017. Alabama isn’t out of playoff contention, but it makes their journey much more difficult. Currently, the Crimson Tide have much more to worry about than their potential playoff destination. Last week against the LSU Tigers, the Tide made many flaws and appeared highly ill-prepared in every angle. If Alabama will make the playoffs, they will need to win with dominance and style and potentially some luck. They can start this Saturday against the Mississippi State Bulldogs (4-5), who are hosting the Tide.
The Rush Defense Needs To Be More Efficient
Among many of the Tide players that had their worst performance in the 46-41 loss at home to the Tigers, the rush defense was one of the most underwhelming. Arguably there were a few players on defense that played well including outside linebacker Anfernee Jennings and cornerback Patrick Surtain II. Against LSU, the Tide’s defense allowed 166 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 40 total carries. Tigers running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire accounted for 103 yards and three touchdowns on 20 carries for an average of 5.2 yards per carry. They also allowed extra running opportunities from Tigers quarterback Joe Burrow, who had 64 yards on 14 rushing attempts. The Tide’s rush defense will need to do better at stopping the rushing attack. This means making the tackles needed and then recognizing the RPO of Bulldogs quarterback Tommy Stevens.
The Bulldogs’ offense averages 217 yards in the running game. MSU running back Kylin Hill has accounted for 1,027 rushing yards and nine touchdowns on 176 carries. The Crimson Tide defense will need to do a better job at stopping the running backs behind the line of scrimmage. Most of the Tigers’ big plays in the rushing game occurred when defenders failed to finish tackles behind the line of scrimmage. The defenders will also need to be aware of the RPO packages that the Bulldogs will likely create specifically for Alabama.
Tide’s Rushing Offense Needs To Be The Base
Last week, the Crimson Tide performed to their usual standards with high-velocity passing and a stout running game. The Tide struggled to convert on third downs and were unable to perform consistently. The blame could not be made on Tua Tagovailoa’s high ankle sprain as his injury didn’t affect his throwing or decision making. Head coach Nick Saban, offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, and the Tide players did not properly prepare for the Tigers’ defense. Even after a slight comeback, the Tide couldn’t overcome a huge deficit. Now the Tide will need to keep Tagovailoa as healthy as possible for the next few weeks. These next few weeks will require a strong run game to properly heal Tagovailoa’s high ankle sprain. Running back Najee Harris will need to that player once again. So far this season, Harris has rushed for 788 yards and six touchdowns on 127 carries.
Statistically, the Bulldogs are better at stopping the run than the passing game. The Bulldogs defense allows an average of 227.3 yards per game through the passing game. The rush defense of the Bulldogs allows an average of 162.1 yards per game in the rushing game. Their defense allows two rushing touchdowns per game while in the passing game, they allow 1.7 passing touchdowns per game. Harris can be much more efficient for the Tide against Mississippi State than a hurt Tagovailoa.
Win The Easy Match-ups
Losing match-ups was a big indication of how the Tide was not able to withstand LSU on offense and defense. The secondary will need to use this game against the Bulldogs to fix their coverage schemes after a lackluster performance last week. The offensive line will need to be more consistent especially during run plays. This key of the game comes more essential for the coaching staff of the Crimson Tide. The coaching staff will need to win the game before it begins by correctly watching film and getting the team ready. Last week’s performance should that they were not prepared for a fight with the Tigers.