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Nov 5, 2016; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide defensive lineman Dalvin Tomlinson (54) celebrates as he runs off the field following their 10-0 victory over the LSU Tigers at Tiger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

SEC Preview: Mississippi State Visits No. 1 Alabama

Fresh off of a stunning upset of then-ranked #4 Texas A&M, Mississippi State travels to Tuscaloosa where they’ll try to ride their wave of confidence to a win against the best team in college football.

But don’t get disillusioned — the Bulldogs’ (4-5, 2-3 SEC) chances of beating Alabama (9-0, 6-0 SEC) in Bryant-Denney Stadium are poor. To be exact, they have a 4.2 percent of victory according to ESPN’s Football Power Index. But their win over the Aggies was enough to grab Alabama head coach Nick Saban’s attention. If there is any hope of landing within the 4.2 percent margin, it rests on QB Nick Fitzgerald.

Double Dual Threat

Bulldogs head coach Dan Mullen will be the first to acknowledge that QB Nick Fitzgerald still has things to learn. But he’ll turn right around and mention that his athleticism is great enough to help the sophomore overcome some of the obstacles. The sophomore is in the midst of an impressive streak.

Even among running backs, Fitzgerald is fifth in the SEC in rushing yards (839). He’s also ranked fifth with eight rushing touchdowns. He turned in his best rushing performance against the Aggies, notching 182 yards on the ground, including a season long 74-yard score to open up the game. Alabama has had some struggles against mobile QBs this season.

But the Tide is not unfamiliar with dual-threat signal callers. They’ve been riding freshman QB Jalen Hurts’ legs this season. He’s recorded seven rushing touchdowns in the last four games. He also has 635 rushing yards in the conference, 12th overall. Saban cautions that Hurts’ path to becoming a complete player is not over, though. But he’s got to be pleased.

QB Comparison

Jalen Hurts

Passing Yards: 1,685

Total TD: 19 (12 in air, 9 rushing)

Rushing Yards: 635

Interceptions: 6

Completion Percent: 62.3

 

Nick Fitzgerald

Passing Yards: 1,705

Total TD: 24

Rushing Yards: 839

Interceptions: 9

Completion Percent: 56.3

‘Bama Depth

While Fitzgerald and Hurts are fairly even, Alabama easily pulls away in other departments. It’s not just Hurts running the ball. A timeshare of Damien Harris, Joshua Jacobs and Bo Scarbrough all threaten to wreak havoc on the Bulldogs’ defense. Saban is glad that his team has such depth because it prevents any one player from getting worn out. Those three, along with Hurts, comprise the nation’s 12th-best rushing squad at 259 yards per game.

Tough To Score On

If the Bulldogs can somehow handle Hurts and Alabama’s rushing attack, they’ll then have to contend with the nation’s second best defense. The Tide have allowed an average of 13 points against them this season thanks to only allowing 258 yards per game, both second best in the country. And just as easily as they can shut down opposing offenses, they can score on them too. They have a whopping 12 non-offensive touchdowns and their streak of 10 games with one was recently snapped in the 10-0 LSU win. It’s no secret, then, why the entire defense was recognized last week.

Kickoff is at noon today on ESPN.

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